A family’s arduous journey from a farm in Mexico to a crowded dwelling in Los Angeles unfolds, literally, as a ribbon is untied and accordion-style pages open to reveal one continuous, aesthetically astonishing scene.
The densely packed black-and-white composition painted on traditional amate (tree bark) paper conjures both the mystery and stylization of pre-Columbian codices and the imagery and political overtones of a Diego Rivera mural. Written in the first person (English on one side, Spanish on the reverse), the succinct but pithy paragraphs read vertically, paralleling the visual layers. Low buildings, pigs and vegetation surround the young narrator as he feeds roosters in the top scene. When the economy changes, his father searches for work across the northern border. Tension mounts as the family follows later, jumping onto moving trains and avoiding police so they don’t “disappear.” Mirrored actions heighten the drama: An early game of hide-and-seek contrasts with the subsequent need to escape detection by border patrols, for instance. Arriving to a world of skyscrapers and thruways, mother and children find cleaning jobs, but their future is uncertain, as is the whereabouts of their husband/father. Content and design coalesce in a handsome presentation that invites readers to decode intriguing images in a pastoral setting suggestive of folklore—and in the process, arouses empathy for the all-too-real risks surrounding migrants.
Breathtaking. (author and illustrator notes) (Picture book. 6-12)