Kid Lit Review of “Between Us and Abuela: A Family Story from the Border” by Mitali Perkins

This is the story of a family that travels to the U.S./Mexico border during La Posada Sin Fronteras. “The Inn Without Borders” is a one-day celebration in December allowing people on both sides of the San Diego/Tijuana border to get together – sort of – across the fence dividing the two countries. Posada [the word for inn as well as the name of the celebration] is a Mexican tradition re-enacting Joseph and Mary’s search for shelter before Mary gave birth to Jesus. As the American Friends Society, one of the sponsors of the event, [ironically] defines La Posada Sin Fronteras:

“A celebration of the hospitality and welcoming of the stranger found in the original posada story, where Mary and Joseph search for shelter in Bethlehem.”

In Perkins’ story for children aged 5-8, Maria and Juan join their mother on a bus to go to the border to visit their abuela, or grandma, whom they haven’t seen in five years.

Maria and Juan have each made gifts to give their grandma, but the presents won’t fit through the holes in the metal mesh reinforcing the fence that separates them.

Juan begins to cry and Maria gets an idea. She goes into Mama’s knitting bag and turns Juan’s picture for his abuela into a kite using yarn for string. A sympathetic border guard allows her to try to fly the kite over the fence. After three times, “Juan’s gift soars over both fences, straight into Mexico.” Abuela picks it up and the crowd cheers.

The illustrator, Sara Palacios, is a native of Mexico and the recipient of the 2012 Pura Belpreé Illustrator Honor Award. Her kid-friendly illustrations convey a sense of joy, focusing on the love and warmth of the families meeting on the border.

Evaluation: It is sad to contemplate that for some, the celebration of families and Christmas is marred by fences and walls and a prejudicial opposition to people of color entering the country. While Perkins and Palacios choose to emphasize the positive for young children, adults who read with them may feel dispirited nevertheless.

Rating: 4/5

Published by Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Macmillan Publishing Group, 2019

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2 Responses to Kid Lit Review of “Between Us and Abuela: A Family Story from the Border” by Mitali Perkins

  1. BermudaOnion says:

    Those illustrations look fabulous and the story looks sad and timely to me.

  2. stacybuckeye says:

    I’d never heard of this celebration. Interesting. And sad that it’s a necessity.

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