Recommended for readers 6-10
This bilingual picture book tells the true story of the author’s childhood migration, with his father, from Mexico to Texas to find work and a better life. Young Alfredo and his family live in a small Mexican village, where his father, grandfather, and uncle work as laborers. When the labor becomes too difficult for Alfredo’s grandfather, Alfredo and his father must leave their village and cross la frontera (the border) to find work.
Based on the author’s true story, La Frontera: El viaje con papá takes place in the 1980s, but resonates with readers today: a child and his father leave everything they know to come to the United States for a new life. The boy has to adjust to a new culture, new language, and new people; people who may not always be welcoming. Claudia Navarro’s artwork is expressive and warm at times, harrowing in others, providing an emotional punch to the story: the crossing itself, in particular.
The book is bilingual English and Spanish, which makes me so happy. These books build a bridge between two cultures by sharing a language; I loved having them at my last library, where most of my patrons are bilingual Spanish/English language learners. It works on an empathy-building level, too; sharing a story together can speak volumes to readers who may not understand another’s struggles. Here, a personal story with strong themes of family, separation, migration, poverty, and resilience can illustrate what a nightly news story may not. Back matter discusses the author’s background, borders, and immigration, and features photos.
La Frontera: El viaje con papá has a starred review from Booklist and is a Junior Library Guild Selection for the 2018 elementary Spanish category. It’s a worthy add to Own Voices collections. Booktalk this with another powerful bilingual picture book, Somos como las nubes/We Are Like the Clouds, by Jorge Argueta.