Somos como las nubes / We Are Like
the Clouds. By Jorge Argueta. Illus. by
Alfonso Ruano. Tr. by Elisa Amado. 2016.
Groundwood, $18.95 (9781554988495).
Argueta’s collection of carefully crafted,
first-person, bilingual poems centers
around the experiences of unaccompanied minors from Central America
making the dangerous trek to the U.S.
in search of their families and a safer life.
Together with Ruano’s expressive paintings, Argueta’s poems, ideal for all older
middle-school audiences, offer a unique
and much-needed perspective on the reasons driving young people to immigrate
to the U.S.
A Song for Cambodia. By Michelle
Lord. Illus. by Shino Arihara. 2008. Lee
& Low, $16.95 (9781600601392).
This picture-book biography for
middle-grade readers traces the childhood of Arn Chorn, who survived a
Khmer Rouge work camp by learning
to play a traditional Cambodian instrument. After many terrors, he’s eventually
brought to America and adopted, and
though he adjusts to his new country, his
music keeps him connected to his homeland. Arihara’s realistic paintings, which
steer clear of graphic violence, enliven
Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s
Journey. By Margriet Ruurs. Illus.
by Nizar Ali Badr. 2016. Orca, $20
(9781459814905). Gr. 3–6.
The story of fictional Rama’s life in
Syria before war forced her family to flee
is an all too common one. First their
lives are curtailed by political oppression,
then violent warfare. Written in English
and Arabic, the verses of Rama’s poetry
teem with tangible detail, but it’s the
illustrations—tableaux composed of
rocks and pebbles—that will most fascinate middle-school readers.
Teacup. By Rebecca Young. Illus.
by Matt Ottley. 2016. Dial, $17.99
(9780735227774). PreS–Gr. 2.
With a bundle of belongings, including
a teacup containing earth from his homeland, a boy sets sail alone. As time passes,
the cup sprouts an apple tree, which sustains him until he finds a place to land.
Though the journey sometimes seems like
a metaphor for growing up, the stunning
illustrations contain subtle hints about
turmoil in the boy’s homeland, suggesting connections to immigration stories
hope, this is the personal drama behind
the daily news. Williams and Mohammed
offer a similarly moving story about a Sudanese refugee adjusting to life in America
in My Name Is Sangoel (2009).
The Journey. By Francesca Sanna. Illus.
by the author. 2016. Flying Eye, $17.95
(9781909263994). K–Gr. 2.
Using a bright palette and playful visual
style belying the serious subject matter,
Sanna tells the story of a mother and her
two children fleeing an unnamed, war-torn country to seek safety in a land of
high mountains and friendly creatures.
The straightforward text and fairy-tale-style artwork make this heartbreaking,
scary, yet hopeful story beautifully captivating.
Mama’s Nightingale: A Story of
Immigration and Separation. By Edwidge
Danticat. Illus. by Leslie Staub. 2015.
Dial, $17.99 (9780525428091). K–Gr. 3.
Saya’s mother is in a detention center
because she doesn’t have the right “
papers.” Although Saya can visit her, she
wants Mama home. Staub’s warm, swirling illustrations depict Saya’s mother
comfortingly floating above her as she
recalls her mother’s fanciful stories and
comes up with an inspiring solution.
Danticat’s endnotes remind readers that
this is a story based in reality.
Migrant. By José Manuel Mateo. Illus.
by Javier Martínez Pedro. 2014. Abrams,
$19.95 (9781419709579). Gr. 2–5.
In this accordion-fold picture book,
appropriate for middle-graders, Mateo
and Pedro present a single, extended,
childlike drawing packed with minute
details, which moves from crowded village
life through a harrowing train journey
to a modern cityscape, all the while accompanied by the story of a young,
undocumented boy migrating to Los Angeles. This striking, empathetic look at a
difficult issue is presented in both English
My Shoes and I. By René Colato Laínez.
Illus. by Fabricio Vanden Broeck. 2010.
Boyds Mills, $16.95 (9781590783856).
Mario’s mother sends him a new pair
of shoes for his walk from El Salvador
to the U.S., where he will join her. The
shoes grow filthy, develop holes, and wear
down, but Mario and his father finally
ford a river and join his mother in the
U.S. The grainy illustrations portray the
story, pitched for middle-graders, from
a variety of perspectives but focus on the
shoes, as a symbol of Mario’s journey.
Their Great Gift: Courage, Sacrifice, and
Hope in a New Land. By John Coy. 2016.
Carolrhoda, $19.99 (9781467780544).
Wing Young Huie’s moving photos
capture immigrant families in a variety
of modern contexts, while Coy’s words
emphasize common experiences of newcomers to this U.S. The powerful message
of the words and pictures together reminds readers that immigrants are not
just brand-new transplants in their neighborhoods; in some cases, they are the
progenitors of American families.
A Thirst for Home: A Story of
Water across the World. By Christine
Ieronimo. Illus. by Eric Velasquez. 2014.
Bloomsbury, $17.99 (9780802723079).
This hauntingly bittersweet tale, good
for middle-graders, imagines the heartbreak of a mother and daughter forced
apart by hunger and poverty. Eva longs
for her biological mother, Emaye, but
feels real security with her adoptive family in America. Velasquez’s light-infused
illustrations capture the quiet dignity
of Emaye’s grief and Eva’s tentative acceptance and perfectly complement the
tender tone of the text.
Two White Rabbits. By Jairo Buitrago.
Illus. by Rafael Yockteng. Tr. by Elisa
Amado. 2015. Groundwood, $18.95
(9781554987412). K–Gr. 2.
The slow pace of this immigration
story (also available in a Spanish edition)
matches the steady tread of a girl and her
father as they embark on a journey of
immigration on foot, by raft, and atop
trains, moving day and night through
deserts and fields. The multimedia illustrations use saturated earth tones to
render these anonymous people beautifully real. Though they have no names or
a place to call home, there is no doubt
that they count.