I chose today’s Perfect Picture Book before I knew what the big news story would be this week. Sadly, the United States continues to grapple with the issue of who should, or should not, be allowed to move here from outside our borders, either temporarily or permanently, alone or with their families.
Books like today’s Perfect Picture Book put a human face to the issues and will, I hope, foster empathy for those who make difficult choices, whether to stay with family or migrate in hopes of a better life.
Title: Papi’s Gift
Written By: Karen Stanton
Illustrated By: René King Moreno
Publisher/date: Boyds Mills Press (an imprint of Highlights)/2007
Suitable for Ages: 7-9
Themes/Topics: family; migrant; Guatemala; disappointment
It is hot and dry on the day that Papi tells me about the box.
“Graciela,” he says, “I have sent you a box—a big box full of wonderful things for my girl on her seventh birthday.”
Graciela’s father, who has left their Guatemalan home to pick crops in California, promised to send a big box of birthday presents to Graciela. Disappointed when the box doesn’t arrive in time, Graciela recognizes that she is not the only one longing to be together.
Links to Resources:
- Learn about Guatemala;
- Did you ever expect a package to arrive and it didn’t? How did you feel? What did you do?
- When you realize that someone else is sad, what can you do to help them feel better?
- Have you ever shared something that you love to make someone else feel better?
Why I Like this Book:
Papi’s Gift is a sensitive story about the effects of migration on a Guatemalan family whose father is forced to seek work in the US because of a long drought that ruins the family’s crops. Told from the perspective of young Graciela, the reader experiences her sadness and anger that her father isn’t there to celebrate her birthday, and that even his promised package does not arrive. But hearing him cry on the telephone helps her, and the reader, realize that separation is difficult for both those left behind and those who leave.
Particularly poignant is a scene in which young Graciela asks her mother to share wedding photos with her; Papi “has been gone so long that I am forgetting his face.” Papi’s Gift puts a human face to migration and family separation and, hopefully, will foster empathy in young readers for migrants and immigrants who toil alone in the US in hopes of improving the lives of those in their home countries.
Moreno’s soft, pastel illustrations evoke the desert setting, as the family awaits the rains that will allow Papi to return to the family.
A Note about Craft:
Although neither Stanton nor Moreno appear to be Own Voice authors, it’s clear from the text and illustrations that the pair have traveled to Guatemala and understand the plight of families separated by migration.
While the central feeling of Papi’s Gift primarily is sadness and longing for a loved one’s return, Graciela also becomes angry when her father’s promised gift does not arrive for her birthday and sulks for the entire day. By including these emotions, I think Stanton presents Graciela as a complete child, not just a “poster child” for the children of migrants. I think this makes her more relatable to other children who, perhaps, have reacted similarly when things haven’t gone their way.
Finally, I love the dual meaning of the title, Papi’s Gift, as it could refer either to the gift sent by Papi, that doesn’t arrive, or a gift given to Papi. Which is it? You’ll have to read Papi’s Gift to decide for yourself!
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!