By Dr. Kathleen Crawford-McKinney, Wayne State University and Deanna Day-Wiff, Washington State University
In the second installment of November’s MTYT, Dr. Kathleen Crawford-McKinney and Deanna Day-Wiff talk about the picturebook Dreamers, written by Yuyi Morales. November’s theme is Global Perspectives on the Refugee and Immigrant Experience. This book depicts the real life struggle of a single mother who crossed the US border with her young son in order to seek out a better life.
Deanna: All of us have stories. Each of us has dreams. This stunning picturebook cover shows a mother holding her infant child with sun rays of yellow, orange and pink extending outward. A butterfly and bird flitter around floral embroidery. The bright colorful acrylic and ink cover exudes—open me and enjoy!
Dreamers is Yuri Morales’ immigration story that began in 1994 when she walked across a bridge from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, to El Paso, Texas, with her son. At first her new life was lonely and difficult because she didn’t speak much English. She made mistakes such as swimming in a public fountain. One day she discovered a place full of children’s books—the public library. The covers of many of the picturebooks and novels Yuri and her son read are depicted: Lon Po Po, In My Family, The Circuit to Calling the Dove. Together they spent hours in libraries across the bay area devouring books together where the characters or events—shark, fire engine, dog, rocket and baseball fly off the page toward readers/viewers. Stars flitter across the pages and readers will truly feel like they are in their dream world. This book filled place, the library, became their home where they learned to read, speak and write.
Yuyi’s illustrations are collage with photographs of her studio floor, bricks from her home, embroidery, childhood drawings and more. The back of the book includes a lengthy list of children’s books that have inspired Yuyi. All immigrants are dreamers because they enter a new country carried by hopes and dreams, desiring to build a better future. This gorgeous picture book will inspire children and teachers to share their own stories.
Kathleen: I love how the books in the library that she thinks supported her growing up are all provided with the titles, as you noted Deanna. And that all of the books that are important to her are listed in the back endnotes. From each of these books she takes one more step to find her identity – not by giving up her culture from Mexico – but the choices she makes as she traces the journey of her immigration. The struggles she encounters to understand the rules of her new home. Both this book and last week’s book, La Frontera both exhibit the notion of not giving up.
The book has a feeling of bilingualism in both the illustrations and the text. The illustrations portray images of San Francisco such as the skylines and the painted lady houses, as well as many illustrations that represent Mexican culture such an image of “El Di´a de los Muertos” skeleton painted dog, and an all-seeing eye on a heart with the yucca plant. The text blends both Spanish and English language throughout. The pages that intrigues me the most is a two-page spread that shows footsteps going up and down the hilly streets of San Francisco with the text
You and I became caminantes. Thousands and thousands of steps we took around this land, until the day we found….
One has to wonder about the Spanish word – and believe it has to do with wandering about the land. I think I also like these two pages because it leads you to the heart of the story where they find the library and discover the unimaginable through all of the books! Visually this book is a true delight. I love how we see the illustration of Morales’ hand at the beginning and the end of the story that for me indicates this is a story about herself. She shows a strong statement of culture in this book and does not give up her Mexican culture when she moved to the United States, but through every step she takes she discovers more of her identity.
Deanna: Did you think there was a strong statement of culture in the book?
Deanna: I see culture in colors. Morales’ illustrations scream culture in the brilliant color pallet or orange, read and pink with a tan earthy background. There is a touch or a huge splash of orange on every single page. Plus, the abundance of cultural artifacts are scattered throughout such as a guitar, howling coyote and skeleton.
Author: Yuyi Morales
Publisher: Neil Porter Books
Pub Date: September 4, 2018