PPBF – My Two Border Towns

A few weeks ago, I shared Yuyi Morales’ latest picture book, Bright Star, about the Sonoran borderlands between Mexico and the United States. Today’s Perfect Picture Book showcases the similarities, and differences, of two communities in a more urban area of the borderlands.

Title: My Two Border Towns

Written By: David Bowles

Illustrated By: Erika Meza

Publisher/Date: Kokila, an imprint of Penguin Random House/2021

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: US-Mexico border, immigration, family, community

Opening:

Every other Saturday, my dad wakes me up early. “Come on, m’ijo,” he says. “Vamos al Otro Lado.”

Brief Synopsis: The narrator and his father cross from the US into Mexico to run errands.

Links to Resources:

  • Do you ever run errands with a parent? Where do you usually go and what do you do or purchase there?
  • Have you ever traveled across a border? Describe in words or pictures how you felt crossing from one state or country to another, and what seemed the same or different;
  • Check out the Teacher’s Guide for more ideas.

Why I Like this Book:

In My Two Border Towns, Bowles showcases the fluidity of the US-Mexican border for families with ties to both sides of the border, while offering a glimpse into the difficulties faced by those who find themselves unable to cross that border.

As the story opens, readers meet the young narrator and his father who, every other Saturday, cross the border to run errands in a sister town. Brightly colored and detailed illustrations show the similarities and differences between the two towns. The text, in English with Spanish terms sprinkled through, further indicates that this is one metropolitan area, with a border in the middle. As the narrator remarks about the Mexican town, it’s “a twin of the one where I live, with Spanish spoken everywhere just the same, but English mostly missing till it pops up like grains of sugar on a chili pepper.”

Breakfast in a favorite restaurant is followed by a trip to visit relatives in their jewelry store, a pick-up soccer match with primos (cousins), and icy treats from a paletero. All of this, and more, will show young readers that life on one side of the border or the other may not differ much – in so many ways, people everywhere are the same.

But from the beginning, there are clues to another reality: With the right passports, the narrator and his father are able to cross the border whenever they desire. Others, including friends the narrator has met during his frequent crossings, are not as fortunate. For these friends, the narrator purchases candies, and he shares beloved comics. Sadly, the friend’s “hair is longer than when we first met, almost six months back”, and the friend’s family relies on the generosity of people like the narrator and his father for necessities like food and medicine.

With its showcasing of these two realities, I think My Two Border Towns is a wonderful mixture of celebrating the richness of cultures in border communities while introducing the complexities of the border crisis.

A Note about Craft:

As noted above, Spanish terms are sprinkled throughout the text, which, I think, is further evidence of the close relationship among residents of these border communities.

Starting with the cover with its mirror images of the narrator sitting in front of the main shopping streets of these towns, Meza’s illustrations highlight many similarities and differences of these twin cities, and, I think, brilliantly capture the conflicting emotions that many people with ties to both sides of the border must feel.

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!

11 responses to “PPBF – My Two Border Towns

  1. This sounds like an interesting parallel narrative that’s not hitting the reader over the head with issues, but allowing them to observe and discover them on their own. Thanks for featuring, Patricia. I’ll add it to my list.

  2. Now this is a different approach to border towns. I like it a lot! It shows the similarities and differences, for those who can cross with passports, and the compassion the boy and his father have for friends and relatives. This looks like a must read!

  3. Patricia, this book sounds powerful and poignant. I have it on hold and can’t wait to get a good look at it. Thank you!

  4. What a wonderful story – I love that it shows how things are so similar, and yet so different, on each side of an imaginary (but very real) line.

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