Cover image for Between us and Abuela : a family story from the border
Between us and Abuela : a family story from the border
1st ed.
Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 23 x 29 cm.
Added Author:
When Maria, Juan, and their mother go to the border between California and Mexico to visit their grandmother at Christmas, Maria must devise a way to get Juan's gift over the fence.--


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From award-winning author Mitali Perkins and illustrator Sara Palacios comes Between Us and Abuela , a timely debut picture book about love overcoming the border fences between Mexico and the United States.

It's almost time for Christmas, and Maria is traveling with her mother and younger brother, Juan, to visit their grandmother on the border of California and Mexico.

For the few minutes they can share together along the fence, Maria and her brother plan to exchange stories and Christmas gifts with the grandmother they haven't seen in years. But when Juan's gift is too big to fit through the slats in the fence, Maria has a brilliant idea. She makes it into a kite that soars over the top of the iron bars.

Here is a heartwarming tale of multi-cultural families, and the miracle of love.

Author Notes

Mitali Perkins has written novels for young readers, including You Bring the Distant Near (a National Book Award Nominee, a Walter Honor Book, A South Asia Book Award Winner, A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year, and a Shelf Awareness 2017 Best Book of the Year), Rickshaw Girl (a NYPL Top 100 Book) and Bamboo People (an ALA Top 10 YA novel). Mitali was born in India and currently resides in Northern California.

Sara Palacios is the recipient of the 2012 Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor Award. A native of Mexico, Sara graduated from the National Institute of Fine Arts in Mexico City and went on to earn BFA and MFA degrees in Illustration from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. Her books include How to Code a Sandcastle and How to Code a Rollercoaster .

Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

Perkins, a YA author making a powerful picture book debut, and Palacios (How to Code a Sandcastle) have created a story based around La Posada Sin Fronteras ("The Inn Without Borders"), a San Diego-Tijuana border wall tradition that occurs during the nine-day festival of Las Posadas (an afterword provides more background). Maria; her little brother, Juan; and their mother take a bus to the U.S. side to hear the Christmas story, sing carols, worship with other separated families, and have a fleeting face-to-face moment through the fencing with beloved Abuela, who has traveled from her Mexican village to see them for the first time in five years. "For a moment," Maria says, "the fences are invisible." But when Border Patrol won't let Juan give Abuela his drawing of Mary and Joseph ("Inns No rume" the picture reads), Maria takes matters into her own hands and cleverly flies it over the wall as a kite. Cartoon drawings emphasize the resilience of Abuela and her family as they navigate the border landscape, the impenetrable wall, and a situation that feels unfathomable-but is, unfortunately, all too based in reality. Ages 3-6. (Sept.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Horn Book Review

Maria, her brother Juan, and their Mama take the city bus to the U.S.-Mexico border in San Diego. Once a year, in December, is La Posada Sin Fronteras, when friends and family members come together to celebrate the birth of Jesus, albeit on different sides of the border fence. The subdued, warm-hearted, sand-and-sea-toned illustrations show the family members able to see each other and touch hands through the links-and Maria longs to give her abuela the gifts she and Juan brought. But: "We can't let anything through the fence," says a border guard. Maria comes up with a clever solution, one that may stretch the laws of physics (and readers' credulity regarding tolerance for rule-bending at the border), but allows for a heartwarming, culturally specific, and hopeful family holiday story. Perkins's lyrical text, with occasional words in red or blue for emphasis, incorporates some Spanish words and phrases. An informative author's note adds context. Elissa Gershowitz November/December 2019 p.33(c) Copyright 2019. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Booklist Review

This touching contemporary story sensitively focuses on the U.S.-Mexican border and Mexico's cultural traditions in a heartwarming, informative, and hopeful way. Maria, Juan, and their mother are getting ready to visit Abuela on ""La Posada Sin Frontera,"" a celebratory day on which families on either side of the border are permitted to visit at the fence. In the warmth of anticipation, Maria and Juan make presents for Abuela, whom they haven't seen for five years, but in their excitement, they forget that they can't exchange anything through the fence. Perkins gently voices some of the challenges families can experience when they are separated by a border: physical limitations, time limits, and surveillance exacerbate the already difficult distance between loved ones. Maria's inventive solution to that distance will make readers cheer, and Palacios' warm illustrations in saturated colors make the scenes vibrant with feeling and quietly fold in informative visual details about the border and the family's cultural traditions. Pair this honest yet optimistic story with Yuyi Morales' Dreamers (2018).--Vivian Alvarez Copyright 2010 Booklist

School Library Journal Review

PreS-Gr 2--A story of family strength and unity overcoming fences along the Mexican/United States border. Las Posadas (Spanish for inns) is a celebration in Mexico and some Latin American countries that takes place over the nine days before Christmas. The holiday commemorates the search for shelter by Mary and Joseph on the eve of Jesus's birth. On one of those nine days, La Posada Sin Fronteras takes place on the Mexican/United States border between San Diego and Tijuana. Friends and families gather on both sides of the forbidding double fence waiting to catch a glimpse of each other and hopefully exchange some words. In this fictional account, the author makes the heartbreaking event accessible to young children. Two children and their mother prepare to go to the celebration. They haven't seen their grandmother in five years, and the children have made presents for her: Maria has knit a scarf, and little Juan has made a cardboard drawing. Unfortunately, when the time comes, the children are unable to give Abuela her presents. The spaces in the fence are too small, and, besides, it's forbidden to pass anything through the fence. Maria solves the problem by tying the drawing up with her knitting yarn and flying it over the fence like a kite, all with the guards' permission. VERDICT Another poignant piece to add to the current national discussion about the border. A must for any collection.--Lucia Acosta, Children's Literature Specialist, Princeton, NJ

Kirkus Review

A Christmas fairy tale set at the border wall.Mara and Juan get on a border-bound bus with their mother. They haven't seen Abuela in five years. Both children have made gifts: a knitted scarf from Mara and a drawing of Mary and Joseph on cardboard from Juan. Arriving at the annual Posada Sin Fronteras event (the Inn Without Borders), the children must wait their turn in order to have 30 minutes with Abuela. Touching pinkies through a metal grid, they exchange love and family news. When it's time to say their goodbyes, Mara starts feeding the scarf through the small holes in the fence. A border patrol officer intercepts and takes the scarf. "We can't let anything through the fence." Orchestrating the requisite Christmas "miracle" to convey howling Juan's gift to his grandmother occupies about half the book and veers into fantasy. The sister transforms her brother's artwork into a kite with the knitting needles MacGyver-ed into spine and cross spar. With the unlikely encouragement of the officers, Mara successfully flies the kite over both the primary and secondary border fences/wallswhich is against the law. To the triumphant shouts of the crowd on both sides of the border, Abuela gets her happy ending. Perkins' fictionalized account of the actual annual gatherings at San Diego's Friendship Park paired with Palacios' chirpy illustrations inadvertently belie the heartbreak and human suffering played out every year. What's "between us and Abuela"? The same thing that's between the U.S. and Mexicoan 18-to-30-foot-high double fence. (Picture book. 5-8) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.