LA FRONTERA

EL VIAJE CON PAPÁ / MY JOURNEY WITH PAPA

A timely, necessary read.

Co-authors Mills and Alva demystify la frontera in this autobiographical tale based on Alva’s childhood journey with his father from Mexico to Texas.

To provide for his growing family, Alfredo’s father decides to journey northward to “find a new home.” Alfredo joins his papá on this arduous voyage, knowing he’ll miss his family and his small village. After saying goodbye to his home and loved ones, Alfredo sets off in the early morning light alongside his father. Led to the Rio Grande by el coyote, Papa and Alfredo cross the river with the help of an old inner tube. When el coyote abandons Alfredo and his father, the pair must escape further into the harsh Texan landscape, away from la frontera. Presented in both Spanish and English, the retrospective narrative overflows with grueling, poignant details about the journey Alfredo and his father undertook. Yet Navarro’s mixed-media artwork succeeds in emphasizing the more-hopeful aspects of Alva’s story, namely love and strength in a familial context. Vivid shifts in color, light, and shadows from scene to scene gently pull readers along, complemented by powerful facial expressions during key moments. After almost a week of struggles, Alfredo and his father arrive at “the Embassy,” a makeshift camp behind a factory. As father and son adjust to their new life in the U.S., they never forget about those left behind.

A timely, necessary read. (appendix) (Picture book. 8-11)

Pub Date: May 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-78285-388-6

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Barefoot Books

Review Posted Online: March 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

WHAT IS A REFUGEE?

A good introduction with unfortunate missed potential.

A straightforward and simple introduction to what being a refugee means, accompanied by glimpses into real refugees’ lives.

Sensibly depicted throughout the book as people of varying skin tones; with black, brown, blond, or red hair; of young or old age; and with or without glasses, headscarves, or facial hair, refugees are portrayed and described as “just like you and me.” They've been forced to flee their homes on account of danger, although many would have preferred to stay with friends and family, and are described as fortunate if they find a new country where they can live unremarkable lives. Gravel describes war, oppression, and discrimination as reasons to flee one’s country, but she misses natural disasters and environmental degradation as other potential reasons, and despite her repeated emphasis that refugees are “just like” readers, she highlights the stereotypical circumstance of refugee camps. The book ends with an engaging collection of portrayals of refugees: children from different countries speaking about their favorite things, followed by famous refugee women and men from around the world. Readers may find the single sentence that some countries “don’t want to welcome more refugees” inadequate. The emphasis on “more refugees” has the potential of shifting the conversation away from justice for refugees to justifying racist exclusionary policies.

A good introduction with unfortunate missed potential. (Informational picture book. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-593-12005-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

SO EMBARRASSING

AWKWARD MOMENTS AND HOW TO GET THROUGH THEM

Somewhat silly but slightly muddled; look elsewhere for meaningful guidance on coping with social anxiety.

A cartoon dive into all things embarrassing.

Intending to show that “the better you understand [embarrassment], the better you control it,” Harper explores several common categories of embarrassment (“social oops,” “it’s on you and it shouldn’t be,” “parents in public,” etc.) before including the insights of real-life licensed health counselor Grace Y. Lin (depicted as a pink hippo). A string of characters accompany readers through the book: Badgey, who has “badges for bravery and words of wisdom”; an unnamed anthropomorphic dog who never gets embarrassed; and a host of child characters who act as examples for different scenarios (and who have a range of pink, tan, and brown skin). Busy pages, a two-dimensional character style, and all-caps lettering give the illustrations a doodled feel. Harper’s ultimate conclusion that “embarrassment + time = good story” reminds readers that time—and a sense of humor—can soften embarrassment. However, the book’s center may be lost as readers become bogged down in detailed examples that focus more often on embarrassing scenarios than on offering tools for reframing thinking, making this very much not a book for anyone with social anxiety.

Somewhat silly but slightly muddled; look elsewhere for meaningful guidance on coping with social anxiety. (Graphic nonfiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5235-1017-7

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Workman

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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