Tag Archives: migrant

PPBF – Migrant

I first saw today’s Perfect Picture Book at a small independent bookstore that displayed it among a group of immigration-related children’s books. Cloth-bound with a scene from the illustrations on paper inset on the front cover, and differing in dimension from the majority of picture books, it immediately caught my eye. I’m so glad it did, as today’s Perfect Picture Book is a unique one:

 

9781419709579_p0_v1_s192x300Title: Migrant

Written By: José Manuel Mateo

Illustrated By: Javier Martínez Pedro

Translated By: Emmy Smith Ready

Publisher/date: Abrams Books for Young Readers/ 2014 (Mexican edition: Ediciones Tecolote/2011)

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Themes/Topics: bilingual, Codex, migrant, immigration

Opening:

I used to play among the roosters and the pigs. The animals roamed free, because in the village there were no pens, nor walls between the houses. On one side of the village were the mountains; on the other side, the sea.

Brief Synopsis: A young boy recounts his journey with his mother and sister from a small village in Mexico to Los Angeles, after the men of the village, including his father, are forced to move to find work.

Links to Resources:

  • Learn about amate paper, a type of paper created from tree bark in parts of Mesoamerica (Mexico and Central America) and utilized for the illustrations in Migrant;
  • The illustrations in Migrant form a Codex, a long sheet of amate paper gathered into an “accordion” fold; try writing your own Codex book;
  • Learn more about Mexico.

Why I Like this Book:

Migrant is not just the story of one family’s journey from Mexico. Through its unique storytelling format, it relates a cultural tale, too.

Told as a codex, with text accompanying the very detailed pen and ink illustrations that spread in accordion-fashion as a seamless picture vertically down the page, Migrant enables us to experience the storytelling techniques of the pre-Columbian inhabitants of the region, the Mayans and Aztecs. We do so while learning in this fictional account why the parents in a representative family decide to leave their home, what difficulties the mother and children encounter on the journey and what awaits them in Los Angeles – the City of Angels, where the child narrator, his sister and mother anticipate working as house cleaners and hope to find their father, who had journeyed earlier to find work.

Migrant is written for older children and an information sheet accompanying the book indicates that it is not recommended for children under 8.

9781419709579_p1_v2_s192x300

A Note about Craft:

Mateo and Pedro utilize a storytelling technique suggested by the original editor (per a 2014 interview with Mateo in Literary Kids) that honors the rich history and cultural traditions of the main character and his fellow villagers.  By drawing on these techniques, the author and illustrator help readers understand the context of the villagers’ situation and the choices they make. As authors and/or illustrators, we similarly can utilize culturally-empathetic techniques to ground and enrich our storytelling.

Mateo employs first-person point of view to draw his readers into this story. Doing so brings immediacy to the situation.

Finally, Mateo adds what at first blush seems like an unimportant detail: Gazul, the narrator’s pet dog and one of the few named characters, spoils games of hide-n-seek by giving away the narrator’s hiding places. Hiding plays a role later in the story, as the narrator and his family evade police to avoid detection. Mateo circles back to Gazul at the end of the story, too, this time as the narrator thinks about “my poor dog”, who “doesn’t like to be alone”.  Adding Gazul to the story enables Mateo to show the positive and relatable aspects of the narrator’s life before he migrates and what he and his family give up in Los Angeles. Inclusion of a pet also builds empathy for the narrator and his situation and can help readers relate to this difficult situation, as many kids can understand the distress their pets feel when left alone.

Migrant received starred reviews from Kirkus Reviews and Publishers Weekly.

For other perspectives on the migrant/immigration experience from Mexico and Central America, see:

Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books provides reviews of picture books by topic. While Susanna is taking a break for the summer, you can still check out the other great picture books featured there!

PPBF – Migrant

I discovered today’s Perfect Picture Book on a #BooksForBetter list of 20 Books about Refugee and Immigrant Experiences. Read others on the list, and join me for today’s Perfect Picture Book:

9780888999757_p0_v1_s118x184Title: Migrant

Written By: Maxine Trottier

Illustrated By: Isabelle Arsenault

Publisher/date: Groundwood Books (House of Anansi Press)/2011

Suitable for Ages: 4-7

Themes/Topics: Mennonites, Canada, Mexico, farming, migrant

Opening:

            There are times when Anna feels like a bird. It is the birds, after all, that fly north in the spring and south every fall, chasing the sun, following the warmth.

            Her family is a flock of geese eating its way there and back again.

Brief Synopsis: Migrant is the story of Anna and her family, Mennonite farmers, who journey each summer to Canada to supplement their income by harvesting produce.

Links to Resources:

  • Learn about Mennonites (note: this is a resource targeted to adults, not children);
  • Explore animal migration; a great place to start is by reading Circle, reviewed here last year, and including several migration-related activities
  • Do you know where the fruits and vegetables you enjoy come from, who plants and harvests them? Learn about food and farming, including some fun activities and games.

Why I Like this Book:

Migrant sheds light on a phenomenon about which many people, including adults, know little about: agricultural migration. Although I was aware of the migration to places like upstate New York from Mexico and Central America, I had no idea that a community of Plattdeutsch (low German)-speaking Mennonites resides in Mexico nor that some, like the fictional Anna and her family, hold Canadian citizenship as well. With its many references to animals that migrate or that live in “borrowed” homes, Migrant helps even young children empathize with Anna, who must leave her home in Mexico to accompany her family to Canada where they harvest produce. Particularly poignant, Trottier describes the “ghosts of last year’s harvest” inhabiting the rental home, shopping for groceries at the “cheap store” where people often stare and Anna understands only a few of the words spoken. This is a wonderful introduction to the topic of migration and helping children, and their adults, understand that we rely on migrants like Anna and her family to harvest the foods we eat.

Arsenault integrates the homespun patterns from Mennonite clothing into the illustrations. Migrating geese wear the hats and kerchiefs worn by Mennonites, too, and the homespun artwork even reaches the fields – a patchwork of quilting squares.

An Author’s Note explains the history of the Mennonite communities of Mexico and Canada and describes farm migrant working conditions.

A Note about Craft:

Trottier utilizes many similes in Migrant, even setting the first scene as a comparison when “Anna feels like a bird” (emphasis added). Her family is a “flock of geese” and through the book, Anna feels, in turn, like a jack rabbit, that lives in abandoned burrows, a bee, a kitten sharing a bed with her sisters as her puppy-like brothers fight over a blanket “that barely covers them all”. Most notably, Anna dreams of being a tree “with roots sunk deeply into the earth”, staying in one place, unlike Anna and her family who “like a monarch, like a robin, like a feather in the wind” join the geese and migrate south in the fall. These similes, I believe, will help even the youngest listeners empathize with Anna and subliminally tie the plight of migrants to the natural world they inhabit.

Migrant is the Winner of the 2012 Notable Books for a Global Society Book Award 2012; Winner of the Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Illustrator’s Award Honour Book 2012; Short-listed for the Governor General’s Award: Illustration 2011; Selected for the New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2011; Selected for the ALA Notable Children’s Books List 2012; Selected for the 2012 USBBY Outstanding International Book 2012; Short-listed for the 6th Annual Read Boston Best Read Aloud Book Award. 2012; Short-listed for the Ruth and Syliva Schwartz Children’s Picture Book Award 2012

For another book about migrants, see Two White Rabbits, reviewed here last year. Since this review was posted, Groundwood Books has published an Educator’s Guide.

9780763679668_p0_v1_s192x3009781554987412_p0_v1_s192x300

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!