Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale

Written & Illustrated by: Duncan Tonatiuh

For ages: 6-9 years

Language: English, Spanish.

Topics Covered: Latinx Families, Immigration, Courage, Bravery. 

Summary: Pancho is a rabbit whose father left two long years ago to travel to the North, to find work in lettuce and carrot fields to earn money for his family.  On the day Pancho’s father is supposed to return, the Rabbit family has a big party and cooks all of his favorite foods.  Papá Rabbit does not return that night, or the morning after.  When Pancho’s dad does not return when he is supposed to, Pancho sets out to find him. While following the stars northward, Pancho meets a coyote.  The coyote offers to take Pancho to the North, if he shares the food he brought with him.  Pancho agrees, and they hop aboard the roof of a train to move more quickly.  After jumping off the train, the coyote says they must cross a river but Pancho can’t swim.  The coyote offers to pull Pancho while he floats on a tire, but only after sharing more of his food.  Pancho agrees, and they travel on.  Soon Pancho and the coyote reach a huge wall that separates the South from the North, and the coyote tells Pancho he must give the rest of his food to the snakes that watch over a secret tunnel that goes underneath the wall.  Pancho does not want to, but he agrees.  Now that they are in the North, the pair spends the night in a small shack before going to the fields where Pancho’s papa is working.  The coyote demands more food, but it is all gone.  The coyote tells Pancho he will roast and eat him, and Pancho is too weak to run away and huddles in a corner, very afraid.  Suddenly, Pancho’s father and the others that left their village burst through the door and chase the coyote away!  They had been attacked by a gang of crows that stole all of their money they were bringing back to the village.  Pancho is able to lead the group home, and there is a celebration!  Papá says if rains do not come the next year, he will have to leave again to earn money.  Although the family says they will go together, the book closes with their mother hoping it will rain.

This book is an introduction to the choices many must make to cross borders undocumented, to make money. The coyote helping Pancho is a reference to the slang term of an individual that will help people cross those borders for money, but that often extorts the people they lead.  In an Author’s Note, Tonatiuh speaks of the harrowing journey many families and single individuals undertake, both documented and undocumented.  He closes the note with a list of resources for more information.

Reflection Questions:

  • Do you think that Papá Rabbit was scared to cross the desert to go to the North?
  • What do you think helped him be brave?  What about Pancho?
  • What helps you be brave?
  • How could you help others that might be feeling nervous about something?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Do you know anyone that has had to move to a different country?  Think about what would be the hardest things to adjust to in a new life.  How could your classroom or community to be kind and welcoming to a new family?
  • Make a Neighborhood Guide for a new family.  What languages do you think it should be in?  Maybe if you don’t know, draw lots of pictures so it wouldn’t matter.
  • Learn more about the immigration process, and how it affects families.  Sometimes, not everyone in the family moves at once.  How could you help?
  • Not everyone follows the plan to become a “documented” immigrant, and are known as an “undocumented person”.  This person goes through a lot of risks to try and have a better life, even though some government agencies do not always agree with their choices.  What could you write in a letter to the government to make them more sympathetic to the plight that individuals face that makes them choose the undocumented path?

About the Author & the Illustrator:

duncan tonatiuhDuncan Tonatiuh (toh-nah-tee-YOU) is the author-illustrator of The Princess and the Warrior, Funny Bones, Separate Is Never Equal, Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote, Diego Rivera: His World and Ours and Dear Primo. He is the illustrator of Esquivel! and Salsa. His books have received multiple accolades, among them the Pura Belpré Medal, the Sibert Medal, The Tomás Rivera Mexican-American Children’s Book Award, The Américas Award, the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award and the New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book Award. Duncan Tonatiuh is both Mexican and American. He grew up in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico and graduated from Parsons School of Design in New York City. His artwork is inspired by Pre-Columbian art, particularly that of the Mixtec codex. His aim is to create images and stories that honor the past, but that are relevant to people, specially children, nowadays.

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