Between Us and Abuela: A Family Story from the Border

Written by: Mitali Perkins

Illustrated by: Sara Palacios

For ages: 3-8 years

Language: English & some Spanish

Topics Covered: Family, Immigration, Border Patrol, POC-Centric Narratives, Latinx, Mexican-American, Culture & Traditions, Love, Growing Up, Global Community.

Summary: Even though this is a story centering around Christmas, we felt the need to share it sooner rather than waiting for December to come around!

This is a beautiful and emotional story about a family that is separated by a border.  Maria, her brother Juan, and their mother live in the United States.  Their Abuela lives in Mexico.  Around Christmas, they take a bus to a certain part of the border where groups of people can meet through a fence for half hour chunks of time.  They are separated by this large fence, it’s a time that Maria looks forward to.  Though the time is brief, Maria and Juan are so glad to see their Abuela, and get her kisses on their fingertips through the fence.  When their visit time is up, Maria tries to pass a scarf that she knit through the fence, but a border patrol officer stops her.  Juan begins to cry that he can’t pass through a picture he drew for Abuela, and the trio goes back to the beach.  Maria has an idea that might get their gifts to Abuela without completely breaking the rules about passing things through the fence, but will she be able to pull it off?

This is a poignant story about families separated, but still trying to share an important holiday together.  Maria and her brother are a fictional family, but they are celebrating La Posada Sin Fronteras, which is a real festival put on during Las Posadas in the border enforcement zone in San Diego.  I really enjoyed the author’s note in the back, which talks about the logistics of this yearly event when families on different sides of the border come together to celebrate together.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

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Mitali Perkins has written twelve books for young readers, including Between Us and AbuelaForward Me Back To You,You Bring the Distant Near, and Rickshaw Girl, all of which explore crossing different kinds of borders. She was honored as a “Most Engaging Author” by independent booksellers across the country and has addressed a diversity of audiences in schools and libraries, as well as at festivals and conferences. Mitali was born in Kolkata, India before immigrating to the United States. She has lived in Bangladesh, India, England, Thailand, Mexico, Cameroon, and Ghana, studied Political Science at Stanford and Public Policy at U.C. Berkeley, and currently resides in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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Sara Palacios studied Graphic Design at Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Mexico DF, and has an Associate Degree in Graphic Production Techniques from the School of Design, INBA  (National Institute of Fine Arts) in Mexico. She also has an Associate Degree in Illustration from the Universidad del Claustro de Sor Juana, as well as a BFA and MFA in Illustration from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. She has been a part time faculty member at the Academy of Art University since 2014. She is the recipient of the 2012 Pura Belpré Illustration Honor Award and the 2013 Tejas Star Book Award.

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