La Frontera by Alfredo Alva & Deborah Mills | SLJ Review

Gr 2-5 –Alva, along with coauthor Mills, narrates his experiences as a young child crossing the Mexican and U.S. border with his father.

redstarALVA, Alfredo & Deborah Mills. La Frontera: El viaje con papá/My Journey with Papa. tr. from by María A. Pérez. illus. by Claudia Navarro. 48p. appendix. maps. photos. Barefoot. May 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781782853886; pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781782853923. BL

Gr 2-5 –Alva, along with coauthor Mills, narrates his experiences as a young child crossing the Mexican and U.S. border with his father. Their journey is prompted by financial needs that force Alva and his father to sadly leave behind the rest of the family and travel north with the help of a coyote, a smuggler of people. At the Rio Grande, the coyote takes their money and abandons them. Together, the father and son find their own way to the embassy. After floating across the river, climbing a mountain, and trudging across a giant valley, they arrive at their destination only to discover that the embassy is nothing more than a broken-down campsite inhabited by other refugees. After a few short weeks, Alva is off to school in Texas, alone and scared. Learning a different language is confusing, but with the help of new friends, he learns English while helping them with their math. Alva and Mills make this bilingual autobiographical story readily accessible through well-written and vivid text. Though lengthy, the narrative never feels overwritten. Navarro’s expressive acrylic, graphite, and digital collage illustrations provide a poignant and moving backdrop for this compelling first-person narrative. Back matter includes information on immigration, a history of the U.S. and Mexican border, and photos of Alva’s family and hometown. VERDICT An authentic and humanizing perspective on immigration; a must-have for classrooms, libraries, and bilingual collections.–Mary Margaret Mercado, Pima County Public Library, Tucson, AZ

This review was published in the School Library Journal May 2018 issue.

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