As we enter the holiday season when many people around the world give and receive gifts, I think today’s Perfect Picture Book is a wonderful reminder of the power of gifts to help us accomplish our dreams and open our hearts to those seeking better lives.
Title: My Shoes and I: Crossing Three Borders/Mis Zapatos Y Yo: Cruzando Tres Fronteras
Written By: René Colato Laínez
Illustrated By: Fabricio Vanen Broeck
Publisher/Date: Piñata Books, an imprint of Arte Público Press/2019 (originally published in 2010)
Suitable for Ages: 4-8
Themes/Topics: immigration, journey, family, bilingual, #OwnVoices
For Christmas, Mamá sent me a new pair of shoes from the United States.
I love my new shoes. They walk everywhere I walk. They jump every time I jump. They run fast as me. We always cross the finish line at the same time.
It’s a very long trip to where Mamá lives. We need to travel across three countries. No matter how far, my shoes will take me there.
Brief Synopsis: (from jacket flap)
As a boy and his Papá travel from El Salvador to the United States to be reunited with Mamá, his wonderful new shoes help distract him from the long and difficult journey.
Links to Resources:
- The narrator travels across three countries to be reunited with his mother. Describe or draw a picture of a journey you’ve made;
- What would you bring and/or wear on a journey?
- Draw a picture of your favorite pair of shoes. Why are they your favorite shoes?
- The narrator and his father travel from El Salvador, through Guatemala and Mexico to the United States. Find and color maps from these regions and trace a path their journey may have followed.
Why I Like this Book:
My Shoes and I provides a seemingly realistic glimpse into the journey that those fleeing the violence and poverty of El Salvador face while not overwhelming young readers with the difficulties they encounter. Few, if any of us, have undertaken or even contemplated the journey which Laínez describes. But we can empathize with a young boy who loves the new shoes sent by his mother who clearly loves him. And we can cheer him and his father on as these shoes enable the narrator to travel long distances, overcome obstacles, and finally reach their goal, even as the shoes become dirty and dusty, and develop holes in the soles.
Based on Laínez’ own experience of emigrating with his father from El Salvador in 1985 wearing new shoes sent from his mother, Laínez recounts in an Author’s Note that he is
writing this book to tell readers about the hard journey that immigrant children and families face. They are escaping from violence and crime. Their journey is not a choice but a necessity to look for a better place, where they can accomplish their dreams.
Vanden Broeck’s rich illustrations on distressed paper or board capture the cities and countryside through which the narrator and his father travel, as well as focus our attention on the narrator’s beloved shoes.
A Note about Craft:
As noted above, My Shoes and I is written by an #OwnVoices author who not only was an immigrant but who undertook a journey like that he describes. This perspective not only makes him the perfect one to write this picture book, but it also helps us better understand the fatigue and fear that accompany this young immigrant.
Laínez uses first-person point-of-view to bring immediacy to the story, but by personifying a kid-relatable sidekick, the shoes, he shows us that the narrator isn’t alone, that the narrator shares an interest with kids reading the story, and that, like the shoes, the narrator himself is worn down by the journey.
This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!