I’ve been eagerly anticipating the release of today’s Perfect Picture Book. When I learned that the book launch was occurring this past Tuesday evening at Books of Wonder in NYC, a favorite indie children’s book store not far from my home, I just had to attend. While I can’t begin to capture the evening’s excitement in this post, I hope my review will encourage you to read today’s Perfect Picture Book, share it with others, and share your own story, too.
Written & Illustrated By: Yuyi Morales
Publisher/Date: Neal Porter Books (Holiday House Publishing, Inc.)/September 2018
Suitable for Ages: 4-8
Themes/Topics: immigration; storytelling; libraries; books; hope
I dreamed of you, then you appeared. Together we became Amor Love Amor. Resplendent life, you and I.
Brief Synopsis: A baby and his mother immigrate to the United States from Mexico, and at the local libraries, they learn a new language and find home and hope in a world of books.
Links to Resources:
- If you were moving or traveling to a new city or country, what gifts would you bring with you?
- Share a favorite book with a friend. Note that Morales shares a list of books that inspired her in the back matter;
- Find more activities in the Dreamers’ Event Kit, including tips to tell your own story;
- Celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month, which begins on September 15th, with these Teacher Resources.
Why I Like this Book:
In sparse, lyrical prose and stunning mixed-media illustrations, Morales captures the hopes and fears of new immigrants to the United States. I love how Morales relates just a few details of the journey, including one gorgeous spread showing the young mother and her child crossing “a bridge outstretched like the universe” which holds such metaphorical meaning. I also love how the pair discover a world of knowledge within the library. I think this will resonate with kids – even those who aren’t newcomers or non-English speakers. As the pair note:
Books became our language.
Books became our home.
Books became our lives.
Morales’ vibrant, mixed-media illustrations bring heart and life to her words. In an afterword, she explains her process, lists some of the personal items that she photographed and scanned in, and even indicates that she used a nib pen that once belonged to Maurice Sendak to draw some of the artwork. Morales includes so many details – kids and adults will want to pour over the illustrations again and again (hint: look for favorite kids’ books, monarch butterflies, and other items repeated through many spreads).
A Note about Craft:
Morales utilizes first-person Point of View that brings an immediacy and intimacy to the story. Although the “you” of the text refers to her infant son, the inclusion of “you” made me feel as if I were journeying with the pair. As the story progresses, Morales often uses “we” to include her child as narrator, to help, I think, kids view Dreamers as not just a mother’s story but also her child’s story.
In her presentation, Morales shared her belief that we all bring gifts when we travel or move. Before reading Dreamers aloud to the audience, she shared a bag of surprises that held items she had enjoyed as a child in Mexico, and which she had brought as gifts to the US. This visual representation of gifts and talents resonated with me, and, I think, will encourage kids, especially newcomers, to realize that they have gifts and skills they can share.
Morales is an #OwnVoices author. In her presentation, she encouraged everyone to tell their stories, and reminded us that all authors and immigrants should be sharing their stories. And we are all immigrants.
Interestingly, Morales shared that she hesitated to tell her story, but that she did so in an attempt to “take our humanity back”, to show what immigrants bring, what they give, to their new homelands. At the encouragement of Neal Porter and her agent, Morales created Dreamers. Read Porter’s Editor’s Letter for more insights.
Dreamers is a journey story, complete with an actual bridge, that functions as a metaphor for entering a new life/new world, and a “surprising”, “unbelievable” place, the library. By making these spaces seem other-worldly, I think Morales highlights the importance of these locations and events to her journey and life.
As an illustrator/author, Morales understandably tells much of the story in the illustrations. I especially appreciate how she brings humor to the story through illustrations, such as in a favorite scene showing the young mother bathing her son in a public fountain with the simple text “we made lots of mistakes.”
Dreamers has received many starred reviews, and it’s the September book pick of Margarita Engle, Young People’s Poet Laureate. Dreamers is also available in Spanish as Soñadores. View a video of Morales discussing Dreamers and visit her website to see more of her work. Last month, I reviewed Sand Sister, a picture book Morales illustrated.
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!