I first learned of today’s Perfect Picture Book when I read a wonderful review last month on Jilanne Hoffmann’s blog. Thank you, Jilanne, for sharing this timely picture book. After reading your review and the book, I just had to feature it here, too.
Title: Between Us and Abuela: A Family Story from the Border
Written By: Mitali Perkins
Illustrated By: Sara Palacios
Publisher/Date: Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Macmillan Publishing Group/2019
Suitable for Ages: 4-8
Themes/Topics: border, family, separation, Latinx, grandmother, holidays, #OwnVoices
Abuela stars in all of Mamá’s stories, but my only memory is a voice calling me “angelita.” We haven’t seen my grandmother in five years. But today is La Posada Sin Fronteras, and we are taking a bus to the border to meet her.
US residents María and her younger brother Juan haven’t seen their Mexican grandmother in five years, but they celebrate with her across a border fence on the holiday of La Posada Sin Fronteras.
Links to Resources:
- Learn about Las Posada, the nine-day festival leading up to Christmas, and La Posada Sin Fronteras (“The Inn Without Borders”) celebrated one day along the border between the United States and Mexico in the Author’s Note;
- When you visit an older relative or friend, draw a picture to give to them;
- Check out the additional resources on Mitali’s website.
Why I Like this Book:
Between Us and Abuela is a heart-warming story of love between family members separated by a border, and of one girl’s efforts to surmount the border to bring joy to her Mexican grandmother and her younger brother, Juan.
Despite the fact that the US-Mexican border has dominated the news these past few years, I had never heard of the tradition of La Posada Sin Fronteras and the comfort it must give to so many. And although stories about separated families have been in the media, including children’s picture books, I think Between Us and Abuela highlights aspects of this separation that aren’t apparent to many children or adults. For instance, María and her Abuela communicate on the telephone, but like other families separated by vast distances, María hasn’t seen her in person for many years. How must that feel? And what a wonderful discussion opportunity this presents to help children empathize with these separated families.
I also love that the children make presents for Abuela and when Juan’s gift doesn’t fit through the fence, María finds a way to deliver it. What a quick-thinking young heroine!
Palacios’ blue and sand-colored palette conjured up images of the California-Mexico border. I also loved the small details she included: the Christmas tree on the cover, signaling the time of year; Abuela’s photograph on the cover; and the gulls who can soar over borders and fences.
A Note about Craft:
When I first saw the title, Between Us and Abuela, I wasn’t sure whether “between” referred to a family bond, love or a physical barrier, especially as the subtitle references the border. In hindsight, I think “between” refers to all of the above! What a great way to draw a reader into this poignant story, by focusing on the bonds and love that is affected, but not severed, by a physical border separating this family.
Perkins’ shares this story using first person point-of-view. This helped me feel like I was right there, experiencing this family reunion. I also found myself brainstorming a solution with María to deliver Juan’s picture to Abuela.
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!