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Between Us and Abuela: A Family Story from the Border

by Mitali Perkins

School Library Journal PreS-Gr 2—A story of family strength and unity overcoming fences along the Mexican/United States border. Las Posadas (Spanish for inns) is a celebration in Mexico and some Latin American countries that takes place over the nine days before Christmas. The holiday commemorates the search for shelter by Mary and Joseph on the eve of Jesus's birth. On one of those nine days, La Posada Sin Fronteras takes place on the Mexican/United States border between San Diego and Tijuana. Friends and families gather on both sides of the forbidding double fence waiting to catch a glimpse of each other and hopefully exchange some words. In this fictional account, the author makes the heartbreaking event accessible to young children. Two children and their mother prepare to go to the celebration. They haven't seen their grandmother in five years, and the children have made presents for her: Maria has knit a scarf, and little Juan has made a cardboard drawing. Unfortunately, when the time comes, the children are unable to give Abuela her presents. The spaces in the fence are too small, and, besides, it's forbidden to pass anything through the fence. Maria solves the problem by tying the drawing up with her knitting yarn and flying it over the fence like a kite, all with the guards' permission. VERDICT Another poignant piece to add to the current national discussion about the border. A must for any collection.—Lucia Acosta, Children's Literature Specialist, Princeton, NJ

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Book list This touching contemporary story sensitively focuses on the U.S.-Mexican border and Mexico's cultural traditions in a heartwarming, informative, and hopeful way. Maria, Juan, and their mother are getting ready to visit Abuela on ""La Posada Sin Frontera,"" a celebratory day on which families on either side of the border are permitted to visit at the fence. In the warmth of anticipation, Maria and Juan make presents for Abuela, whom they haven't seen for five years, but in their excitement, they forget that they can't exchange anything through the fence. Perkins gently voices some of the challenges families can experience when they are separated by a border: physical limitations, time limits, and surveillance exacerbate the already difficult distance between loved ones. Maria's inventive solution to that distance will make readers cheer, and Palacios' warm illustrations in saturated colors make the scenes vibrant with feeling and quietly fold in informative visual details about the border and the family's cultural traditions. Pair this honest yet optimistic story with Yuyi Morales' Dreamers (2018).--Vivian Alvarez Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.

Kirkus A Christmas fairy tale set at the border wall.Mara and Juan get on a border-bound bus with their mother. They haven't seen Abuela in five years. Both children have made gifts: a knitted scarf from Mara and a drawing of Mary and Joseph on cardboard from Juan. Arriving at the annual Posada Sin Fronteras event (the Inn Without Borders), the children must wait their turn in order to have 30 minutes with Abuela. Touching pinkies through a metal grid, they exchange love and family news. When it's time to say their goodbyes, Mara starts feeding the scarf through the small holes in the fence. A border patrol officer intercepts and takes the scarf. "We can't let anything through the fence." Orchestrating the requisite Christmas "miracle" to convey howling Juan's gift to his grandmother occupies about half the book and veers into fantasy. The sister transforms her brother's artwork into a kite with the knitting needles MacGyver-ed into spine and cross spar. With the unlikely encouragement of the officers, Mara successfully flies the kite over both the primary and secondary border fences/wallswhich is against the law. To the triumphant shouts of the crowd on both sides of the border, Abuela gets her happy ending. Perkins' fictionalized account of the actual annual gatherings at San Diego's Friendship Park paired with Palacios' chirpy illustrations inadvertently belie the heartbreak and human suffering played out every year. What's "between us and Abuela"? The same thing that's between the U.S. and Mexicoan 18-to-30-foot-high double fence. (Picture book. 5-8) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Publishers Weekly Perkins, a YA author making a powerful picture book debut, and Palacios (How to Code a Sandcastle) have created a story based around La Posada Sin Fronteras ("The Inn Without Borders"), a San Diego-Tijuana border wall tradition that occurs during the nine-day festival of Las Posadas (an afterword provides more background). Maria; her little brother, Juan; and their mother take a bus to the U.S. side to hear the Christmas story, sing carols, worship with other separated families, and have a fleeting face-to-face moment through the fencing with beloved Abuela, who has traveled from her Mexican village to see them for the first time in five years. "For a moment," Maria says, "the fences are invisible." But when Border Patrol won't let Juan give Abuela his drawing of Mary and Joseph ("Inns No rume" the picture reads), Maria takes matters into her own hands and cleverly flies it over the wall as a kite. Cartoon drawings emphasize the resilience of Abuela and her family as they navigate the border landscape, the impenetrable wall, and a situation that feels unfathomable-but is, unfortunately, all too based in reality. Ages 3-6. (Sept.) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved