José loves helping Mamá in the garden outside their home in California. But when Mamá is sent back to Mexico for not having citizenship papers, José and his Papá face an uncertain future. What will it be like to visit Mamá in Tijuana? When will she be able to come home? Award-winning children’s book author René Colato Laínez tackles the difficult and timely subject of family separation with exquisite tenderness. Joe Cepeda’s bright and engaging illustrations bring this story of hope to vivid life.
See the review at WOW Review, Volume 4, Issue 2
- ISBN: 9780892392315
- Published: 2010 , Children's Book Press
- Themes: Deportation, Family, immigration, separation
- Descriptors: Americas, Bilingual, Mexico, Picture Book, Primary (ages 6-9), United States
- No. of pages: 32
4 thoughts on “From North To South/Del Norte Al Sur”
From North to South/Del Norte al Sur takes the reader alongside Jose during one very emotional day. Through Jose’s eyes, we learn about how his mother was recently taken by immigration officials while she was at work in San Diego (“She had been working at the factory when some men asked for her immigration papers. But Mama was born in Mexico and didn’t have those papers. The men put Mama and other workers in a van. In a few hours, Mama was in Tijuana, Mexico”). Today is the first day Jose will get to visit his Mama, who is staying at a center for women and children who are waiting to be reunited with their families in the United States.
This story is based on an actual center in Tijuana called El Centro Madre Assunta. The author, René Colato Laínez was born in El Salvador and later immigrated to the United States. He has experience with separation. For a period of time, he was away from his mother and experienced the frustration, sadness, and trauma of waiting for her to be able to join him in the United States. Laínez now teaches elementary school in Los Angeles, California. Many of his students know someone who has been deported back to Mexico or are separated from family members living in Mexico, unable to cross the border. Laínez’ and his students’ stories and experiences are featured in the majority of his writing.
The story ends on a sad, but hopeful note. Jose falls asleep on the car ride home and dreams about Mama having the right papers and being able to cross the border with Jose and his father. He also dreams that all the children of Assunto would find their parents soon.
Joe Cepeda created the illustrations. They are vibrant and full of color. One gets the sense that while Assunto is a place of sadness, it is also a place of promise and love.
Laínez, R. C. (2010). From North to South/Del Norte al Sur. San Francisco, CA: Childrens’ Book Press.
“From North to South” is a powerful story about the separation one family faces due to immigration issues. The mother is forced to return to Mexico while the father and son remain in San Diego. The emotions Jose, the son, feels about his mother’s absence are strong and my students were appalled at the thought of this little boy being separated from his mother in such a way. The story also provided a very interesting conversation about immigration and the procedures you must go through in order to live in this country legally. Many never knew you had to have permission and documentation in order to live in the United States, so they were curious about how you got it, what the papers look like, where you would have to keep your papers. This also started a conversation about passports and what you need in order to visit other places, border patrols, and migrant workers that we have in our own community. I was amazed at how engaged my students became about the topic of immigration after reading this book. Obviously, it is a compelling story that peaked the interest of my second grade class.
A story about immigration, Del Norte al Sur tells of the difficult separation one family has to make. I wanted to casually discuss the issue of immigration and find out what my students already knew of the topic.
As I started the story, I realized my students had no prior knowledge of immigration. We stopped and talked about how José, the little boy in the story must have felt to have his mom taken away from him because she didn’t have the right papers to be living in California.
We decided to chart our thoughts. Students decided José had some strong feelings. We then found evidence from the text to back up our thoughts.
How the Character Feels: Sadness
Evidence from the Text: José says, “I missed Mamá. I missed her tucking me into bed, her bedtime stories, and her beautiful voice.”
How the Character Feels: Excitement
Evidence from the Text: José runs for the car keys and mamá’s luggage when he knows he gets to visit her.
How the Character Feels: Anxiousness
Evidence from the Text: José tells his papa to drive faster because he cannot wait to see his mamá.
How the Character Feels: Joy
Evidence from the Text: José’s heart ‘jumps’ with happiness when he sees his mom again.
How the Character Feels: Confusion about when his mamá will return home
Evidence from the Text: José whispers to his mom “When are you coming home?”
How the Character Feels: Hopeful
Evidence from the Text: José helps everyone plant seeds for their families who are not with them. “We will have beautiful flowers,” he says.
How the Character Feels: Contentment
Evidence from the Text: José asks if he can visit his mom again soon. His papa says they would visit again soon. He falls asleep dreaming of when his mom will eventually get her paper work.
The book From North to South/Del Norte Al Sur has beautiful pictures that compare and contrast Tijuana and Calfornia. When I read this book to my students they were all amazed that Jose was so mature about the situation. We had a long talk about immigration and the connection between it and slavery. My students were able to point out that both included families being torn apart by law and how children had to cope with just having one family member (and sometimes none) to cope with the loss. My Spanish speaking students enjoyed hearing the Spanish words and phrases scattered about. When I read the story I was looking for confirmation in my pronunciation being that I am not a Spanish speaker. I was joyed to see that they were smiling when I pronounced these words which gave me confirmation that I had pronounced them correctly. There weren’t any words in the story that were too difficult to pronounce and they were pretty mainstreamed types of words such as Por Favor. Over all this was a good book to share and kept my students engaged from beginning to end. It is also a good book to start discussions with or compare and contrast places and ideas.