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  • Elizabeth Garcia

Book Review: La Frontera-My Journey With Papa

If you're wondering how to talk to your children about immigration in a way that they can understand you need to read to them La Frontera--My Journey With Papa.

In this beautifully illustrated children's book the authors tell the story of Alfredo Alva, who crossed the border with his father on foot when he was 8 years old.

The story begins with Alfredo and his extended family living in Mexico.  When the grandfather becomes too elderly to help in the family work of picking pine nuts, Alfredo's father is unable to make enough money on his own to support his growing family.  For the first few pages we see Alfredo with his family and see him saying good-bye to his friends, mother, and pets.  We can see how difficult it is for him to leave all that he is familiar with behind.

We then follow Alfredo and his father on their difficult journey across the river, walking for days through harsh conditions, until they finally arrive to a place called "the Embassy," which turns out to be a sad place of dilapidated trailers, a temporary stop for immigrants to stay while they become settled.

The saddest part for me was the one page where Alfredo is going to school for the first time and his father gives him a $100 bill to keep safe just in case he is picked up and deported to the other side of the border, he can use the money as bus fare to get back to his family's home town.  How many children today are sent to school with these kinds of warnings?  How many parents wait anxiously to be reunited with their children at the end of each school day?

Eventually, there is a happy ending for Alfredo and his family as they become American citizens and are reunited with his mother and siblings.  But as we know from today's headlines these happy endings are not what many immigrants are experiencing right now.

Included in the back pages is further information teaching children about immigration, shifting borders, and the many cultural influences immigrants bring with them to the United States.  Through the story and the educational information included at the end, this book can help your children understand what they may be seeing and hearing in their surroundings.

As the New York Times said about the book in their review, "Memories of migration matter.  Telling these stories seems more important than ever--even, and some might say especially, to children..."

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