A timely, necessary read.

READ REVIEW

LA FRONTERA

EL VIAJE CON PAPÁ / MY JOURNEY WITH PAPA

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

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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A good introduction with unfortunate missed potential.

WHAT IS A REFUGEE?

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 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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Engaging episodes, not beyond the ken of the current generation and lit with just enough sentiment to give them a warm glow.

MARSHFIELD MEMORIES

MORE STORIES ABOUT GROWING UP

A second set of childhood memories from the author of Marshfield Dreams (2005)—these spun around the feeling of being an “in-betweener” in his family as eldest of eight (later nine) siblings.

Fletcher opens with an elaborate neighborhood map (“Marshfield was my Middle-earth,” he writes) and goes on in short chapters to recall the pleasures—and sometimes tribulations—of being a Boy Scout, playing marbles, joining a muddy scramble to gather a bucket full of frogs, having the house to himself for a day, getting a pocket transistor radio, and like treasured moments around age 10. Other memories, such as learning that a Sunday school acquaintance who shared his love for chocolate Necco Wafers had died and seeing his school bus driver Ruben Gonsalves silently watch his son get slapped (wondering since if the 1964 incident would have even happened in his “white town…but for the color of their skin”), spark more complex responses. In an epilogue he tallies other less halcyon memories, capped by the later death of a brother covered in greater detail in the previous volume. Still, like the mock funeral his friends gave him when he and his family moved away from Marshfield, readers will find these reminiscences “sad, funny, a little weird, and very sweet.”

Engaging episodes, not beyond the ken of the current generation and lit with just enough sentiment to give them a warm glow. (Memoir. 9-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-62779-524-1

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

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