Review: Two White Rabbits by Jairo Buitrago

Two White Rabbits by Jairo Buitrago

Two White Rabbits by Jairo Buitrago, illustrated by Rafael Yockteng, translated by Elisa Amado (InfoSoup)

A little girl and her father travel together. As they go, the little girl counts different things like chickens and the people who live by the train tracks. They are accompanied by a coyote, shown as an animal here but clearly meant to represent the person they pay to get them to safety eventually. The two board a train, riding on the roof where the little girl counts clouds and falls asleep when it gets dark. They and their coyote avoid soldiers, wait on the side of a highway, and even make new friends along the way. Her new friend gives her two white rabbits to take with them, rabbits that they eventually release into the wild near a border wall.

Filled with a powerful blend of the naive understanding of the young child and the harshness of trying to escape to a new country with a coyote, this picture book captures the risk and harrowing nature of that journey. The book ends with a statement by the President of IBBY Foundation about the millions of people who make journeys like this every year, including the hundreds of thousands of children from Central America traveling north. The author uses symbolism in a powerful way, showing the coyote as an animal and also the two white rabbits who are clearly both a present and the father and daughter themselves. The ending is ambiguous and will invite discussion about what happens to the rabbits and to the people.

The art by Yockteng is filled with delicate lines. He takes what could have been thoroughly grim moments and enlivens them with the eyes of the child. So the crossing of a muddy river becomes an adventure, the ride aboard the train is time to spend close together, and the wait by a highway is a chance to bond with another child. At the same time, readers will also see the truth, the danger and the exhaustion of the journey. It is a delicate balance that is beautifully achieved.

A book to inspire discussion, this picture book speaks the truth about desperate families looking for a better life and the risks they will take to reach it. Appropriate for ages 7-9.

Reviewed from library copy.