While I witness an administration actively working to terrorize immigrants and to demonize the families seeking to cross the US-Mexico border, I feel the need more than ever to have frank, age-appropriate, humanizing conversations with my kids. Books help.
Today’s post is a collaboration with The Conscious Kid, one of my favorite places to find smart, thoughtful, research-backed recommendations for children’s books (among other things). The list of children’s books that they recommend below recenter the families caught in the maelstrom of flawed immigration policy. Through words and pictures, children and adults alike are reminded of the hardship, the struggle, and the dangers faced by immigrating families. Above all else, these stories showcase the humanity of the people who risk everything to seek refuge in the United States. More than providing insight into someone else’s reality, in these stories immigrant children can also see their own stories reflected back at them—stories of fortitude, resilience, joy, and sorrow.
Immigrants from around the world come to United States, but we’ve decided to focus our attention on stories about folks coming to the US from Central America and Mexico—the folks who are at the center of the current crisis at the US border and in detention centers across the country. (More information on what you can do to help folks impacted by this crisis are at the bottom of this post.)
Here are six Conscious Kid-approved titles:
TWO WHITE RABBITS, words by Jairo Buitrago and illustrations by Rafael Yockteng [pictured above]
A little girl traveling from Central America with her father recounts her experience as a migrant with the poignant simplicity of a young child. As she and her dad make their journey to the border on top of train cars and in the back of pickup trucks, she counts the clouds and chickens and soldiers on their path and asks over and over, “Where are we going?”
DREAMERS, words and pictures by Yuyi Morales
This book is inspired by the story of the author’s own journey to the US. In 1994, Yuyi Morales and her infant son, Kelly, made their way across the bridge from Juarez, Mexico to El Paso, Texas. As they struggled to find their way in their new home and learn a new language, they discovered the public library. There they learned to read and write and tell their own stories. This beautifully illustrated carries a simple message of hope and resilience.
LA FRONTERA: EL VIAJE CON PAPA / MY JOURNEY WITH PAPA, words by Deborah Mills and Alfredo Alva, illustrations by Claudia Navarro
This vibrantly illustrated book tells the story of author Alfredo Alva, who immigrated to Kerrville, Texas with his father when he was eight-years old. The detailed story is written in Spanish and English and follows the young boy’s journey to the US, his adjustment to his new life, and his eventual reunion with his mother and siblings. Historical notes at the end of the book provide further details and context for kids and parents.
PANCHO RABBIT AND THE COYOTE: A MIGRANT’S TALE, words and pictures by Duncan Tonatiuh
In Spanish, the word coyote has two meanings: It’s the name of the sly animal we know from folktales, and it’s also slang for the people who smuggle migrants between the US and Mexico border. In this allegorical folktale, young Pancho sets out to find his father who has gone north to work in the lettuce fields. Along the way, Pancho meets a sly coyote who offers help in exchange for the provisions Pancho has brought for the journey. The coyote demands Pancho’s food, until there’s nothing left to eat but Pancho himself… A timely rescue by Pancho’s dad and a triumphant return home speaks to the enduring strength and love of family. A detailed author’s note and glossary provides helpful context and resources for adults and older children.
MANGO MOON, words by Diane de Anda and illustrations by Sue Cornelison
The lives of Maricela, Manuel, and their mother are forever changed when their dad and husband is taken away. Told from the perspective of young Maricela, Mango Moon provides a heartbreaking look at the confusion and heartache experienced by children who are separated from their parents through deportation. Maricela finds comfort in memories of her dad—and the mango-colored moon—while also mourning her father’s absence and struggling to come to terms with the new realities of her family’s day-to-day life.
A MOVIE IN MY PILLOW / UNA PELICULA EN MI ALMOHADA, poems by Jorge Argueta and illustrations by Elizabeth Gomez
Poet Jorge Argueta immigrated from El Salvador to San Francisco’s Mission District at the start of the Salvadorian Civil War in 1980. This collection of children’s poems—presented in both Spanish and English—depict Jorge’s childhood memories of his birth country and his experience in the community his family found in the United States. The poems explore the simultaneous sense of both belonging and loss that’s so often a part of the immigrant experience.
+ Donate: Seven is the number of immigrant children known to have died in immigration custody. Do you have $7 to donate in their honor? The Decolonizing Childhood Coalition is organizing a fast-action fundraiser to support the Immigrant Families Together General Fund. As of this morning, they’re only $170,000 away from their $1 million goal. Let’s get them there.
+ Protest: Tomorrow, July 12, 2019, communities across the country (and the world) are gathering at detention centers, city halls, town greens, and backyards to protest the deplorable treatment of immigrants. Find a local Lights for Liberty Vigil or create your own and stand in solidarity with immigrant communities.
+ Talk to kids. Getting children involved in these discussions is crucial, but no doubt reading some of these books will bring up difficult conversations. If you need support on how to broach conversations about race and injustice with children, The Conscious Kid’s Spring 2019 Instagram series #DisruptingRacismWithKids is an excellent starting point.