Two Children’s Books About Crossing Borders

What better way to learn about people who immigrate from Mexico to the United States than to read their personal stories? Let’s look at two sets of biographies nominated for 2018 Cybils awards, each with their own approach and voice.


Artist and author Yuyi Morales stepped across the border from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico to El Paso, Texas in 1994. She writes about her experiences in Dreamers, the English version and Soñadores, the Spanish version.







Dreamers/Soñadores is creative, dramatic, beautiful.

The English text is enriched with gems of higher-level vocabulary (for example, “resplendent”) and Spanish words (amor, caminantes, lucha). It gives room for learning.

The illustrations are gorgeous (Morales is a Caldecott Honor artist) and are full of symbolism. For example, the monarch butterfly on the cover represents an insect that migrates from Canada and the U.S. to Mexico and back. According to the author, the snakes represent difficulties in one’s path (see her explain some of the symbolism in this YouTube video).

The core message not only reveals the trials and joys of coming to a new place, but also celebrates the importance of books in easing the transition.

“Books became our language.
Books became our home.
Books became our lives. “

We are all for promoting/celebrating books!

Be sure to visit the back matter, which is also full of gems:

  • Check out the extensive list of books (45+) that inspired the author, such as Freight Train by Donald Crews.
  • Read Morales explanation in “My Story” that the tile of the book isn’t a reference to undocumented immigrant children who were brought to the United States — as the word is currently used — but has the broader meaning of imagining a better future.
  • “How I Made this Book” lists all the things she photographed and scanned for the illustrations. Send readers on a hunt to see if they can spot the items listed.

Dreamers/Soñadores is a complex and vibrant book. It will appeal to many different readers for many different reasons. Share a copy today.


In contrast, Deborah Mills , Alfredo Alva, and illustrator Claudia Navarro use a bilingual approach with La Frontera / The Border: El viaje con papá/ My Journey With Papa, displaying the Spanish and English sections on the same page.

La Frontera takes the reader on the arduous and at times frightening trip made by a actual immigrant child. Over thirty years ago Alfredo Alva moved from La Ceja, Mexico to Texas with his father because their family had no means to support themselves. They waded/swam across the Rio Grande when Alfredo was only eight. At first, they lived in an old bus and Alfredo went to school while his father worked. Alfredo’s father gave him a $100 bill to carry with him at all times. It was for the bus fare back to his mother if he was ever deported without his father.

Although this is a picture book according to Amazon, the text is much denser than for Dreamers. There are two or three paragraphs of Spanish and then English on each two-page spread. This allows the story to unfold more fully, but puts it closer to a middle grade title.

The acrylic, graphite, and digital collage illustrations complement the story well. The back matter has black and white photographs of Alfredo and his family, plus a map of their journey.

La Frontera is children’s biography genre at its best. Young readers are likely to come back to it again and again.

Age Range: 4 – 8 years
Publisher: Neal Porter Books (September 4, 2018)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0823440559
ISBN-13: 978-0823440559

Age Range: 4 – 8 years
Publisher: Neal Porter Books (September 4, 2018)
Language: Spanish
ISBN-10: 0823442586
ISBN-13: 978-0823442584

La Frontera:
Age Range: 4 – 8 years
Publisher: Barefoot Books; Bilingual edition (May 1, 2018)
Language: Spanish and English
ISBN-10: 178285388X
ISBN-13: 978-1782853886


Disclosure: These books were provided by our local library. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

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