I discovered today’s Perfect Picture Book on a #BooksForBetter list of 20 Books about Refugee and Immigrant Experiences. Read others on the list, and join me for today’s Perfect Picture Book:
Written By: Maxine Trottier
Illustrated By: Isabelle Arsenault
Publisher/date: Groundwood Books (House of Anansi Press)/2011
Suitable for Ages: 4-7
Themes/Topics: Mennonites, Canada, Mexico, farming, migrant
There are times when Anna feels like a bird. It is the birds, after all, that fly north in the spring and south every fall, chasing the sun, following the warmth.
Her family is a flock of geese eating its way there and back again.
Brief Synopsis: Migrant is the story of Anna and her family, Mennonite farmers, who journey each summer to Canada to supplement their income by harvesting produce.
Links to Resources:
- Learn about Mennonites (note: this is a resource targeted to adults, not children);
- Explore animal migration; a great place to start is by reading Circle, reviewed here last year, and including several migration-related activities
- Do you know where the fruits and vegetables you enjoy come from, who plants and harvests them? Learn about food and farming, including some fun activities and games.
Why I Like this Book:
Migrant sheds light on a phenomenon about which many people, including adults, know little about: agricultural migration. Although I was aware of the migration to places like upstate New York from Mexico and Central America, I had no idea that a community of Plattdeutsch (low German)-speaking Mennonites resides in Mexico nor that some, like the fictional Anna and her family, hold Canadian citizenship as well. With its many references to animals that migrate or that live in “borrowed” homes, Migrant helps even young children empathize with Anna, who must leave her home in Mexico to accompany her family to Canada where they harvest produce. Particularly poignant, Trottier describes the “ghosts of last year’s harvest” inhabiting the rental home, shopping for groceries at the “cheap store” where people often stare and Anna understands only a few of the words spoken. This is a wonderful introduction to the topic of migration and helping children, and their adults, understand that we rely on migrants like Anna and her family to harvest the foods we eat.
Arsenault integrates the homespun patterns from Mennonite clothing into the illustrations. Migrating geese wear the hats and kerchiefs worn by Mennonites, too, and the homespun artwork even reaches the fields – a patchwork of quilting squares.
An Author’s Note explains the history of the Mennonite communities of Mexico and Canada and describes farm migrant working conditions.
A Note about Craft:
Trottier utilizes many similes in Migrant, even setting the first scene as a comparison when “Anna feels like a bird” (emphasis added). Her family is a “flock of geese” and through the book, Anna feels, in turn, like a jack rabbit, that lives in abandoned burrows, a bee, a kitten sharing a bed with her sisters as her puppy-like brothers fight over a blanket “that barely covers them all”. Most notably, Anna dreams of being a tree “with roots sunk deeply into the earth”, staying in one place, unlike Anna and her family who “like a monarch, like a robin, like a feather in the wind” join the geese and migrate south in the fall. These similes, I believe, will help even the youngest listeners empathize with Anna and subliminally tie the plight of migrants to the natural world they inhabit.
Migrant is the Winner of the 2012 Notable Books for a Global Society Book Award 2012; Winner of the Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Illustrator’s Award Honour Book 2012; Short-listed for the Governor General’s Award: Illustration 2011; Selected for the New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2011; Selected for the ALA Notable Children’s Books List 2012; Selected for the 2012 USBBY Outstanding International Book 2012; Short-listed for the 6th Annual Read Boston Best Read Aloud Book Award. 2012; Short-listed for the Ruth and Syliva Schwartz Children’s Picture Book Award 2012
This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!