Between Us and Abuela

Between Us and Abuela, A Family Story From the Border, by Mitali Perkins, Illustrated by Sara Palacios, Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers 2019

This is author Mitali Perkin’s debut picture book. (She has several other books from middle grade to YA.) The illustrator, Sara Palacios, has illustrated several other beautiful picture books.

This is a sweet story about a California family who gets to go see their Abuela in Mexico during La Posada Sin Fronteras. (On one day during the Las Posadas festival, border patrol allows families from the U.S. to enter the enforcement zone so that they can be close to their Mexican family members and celebrate together through the fence. There is some excellent back matter about this tradition.)

The family travels, waits, and finally gets to stand next to Abuela – just on the other side of a chain link fence. The scene is poignant – a hurried and loving catch-up on all that has been missed. “Abuela drops kisses on [their] fingers” through the fence. Both children have brought her presents, but they discover that nothing is allowed to pass through the fence. Maria then devises a clever way to solve this problem, soothe her distraught little brother, and connect with Abuela one last time before they have to head home. Her solution brings everyone together – the families on both sides of the border, and even the border guards – in one moment of cheerful solidarity. It’s a powerful celebration of love, and a moving portrayal of the bonds that tie us together even when borders hold us apart.

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