Dancing Home

A year of discoveries culminates in a performance full of surprises, as two girls find their own way to belong. Mexico may be her parents’ home, but it’s certainly not Margie’s. She has finally convinced the other kids at school she is one-hundred percent American—just like them. But when her Mexican cousin Lupe visits, the image she’s created for herself crumbles.

Things aren’t easy for Lupe, either. Mexico hadn’t felt like home since her father went North to find work. Lupe’s hope of seeing him in the United States comforts her some, but learning a new language in a new school is tough. Lupe, as much as Margie, is in need of a friend. Little by little, the girls’ individual steps find the rhythm of one shared dance, and they learn what “home” really means. In the tradition of My Name is Maria Isabel—and simultaneously published in English and in Spanish—Alma Flor Ada and her son Gabriel M. Zubizarreta offer an honest story of family, friendship, and the classic immigrant experience: becoming part of something new, while straying true to who you are.

Secret Keeper

When her father loses his job and leaves India to look for work in America, Asha Gupta, her older sister, Reet, and their mother must wait with Baba’s brother and his family, as well as their grandmother, in Calcutta. Uncle is welcoming, but in a country steeped in tradition, the three women must abide by his decisions. Asha knows this is temporary—just until Baba sends for them. But with scant savings and time passing, the tension builds: Ma, prone to spells of sadness, finds it hard to submit to her mother- and sister-in-law; Reet’s beauty attracts unwanted marriage proposals; and Asha’s promise to take care of Ma and Reet leads to impulsive behavior. What follows is a firestorm of rebuke—and secrets revealed! Asha’s only solace is her rooftop hideaway, where she pours her heart out in her diary, and where she begins a clandestine friendship with Jay Sen, the boy next door. Asha can hardly believe that she, and not Reet, is the object of Jay’s attention. Then news arrives about Baba . . . and Asha must make a choice that will change their lives forever.

My Ocean: A Novel of Cuba

After his grandparents emigrate, 12-year-old Enrique heads for the ocean, a source of comfort and solace. Why did they flee Cuba, leaving Enrique and his mother behind? Should they go, too? If not, will they, like so many others, be seen as disloyal? The sea has no answers for the boy. As the years pass, Enrique is invited to become a Pioneer, a special honor that bodes well for his future, but it means he’s forbidden from reading the letters his grandparents send home. Enrique wants to belong, to show that he’s deserving of the honor, and once again, he seeks the ocean’s solace. Once again, the ocean has no easy answers. Still, life goes on. There are games with his friends, swimming expeditions, girls to hang out with. And always, there’s the ocean, a place he can go in good times and bad as he tries to make sense of what the future holds for him, his family, and many other Cubans.

Red Midnight

When guerrilla soldiers strike Santiago’s village, they shoot at everyone in their path. Dos Vías is on fire, and the night glows red. “Take the cayuco and sail to the United States of America. Now go!” Santiago’s uncle Ramos tells him, and Santiago, twelve, and his four-year-old sister, Angelina, flee.

With a map, a machete, and very little food, Santiago and Angelina set sail in their uncle Ramos’s sea kayak, built for just such an escape, but not for a sailor who is only a boy. Santiago heads for the United States on a voyage that will take them through narrow channels guarded by soldiers, shark, infested waters, and days of painful heat and raging storms. Santiago knows that he and Angelina probably will die trying to make the voyage, but they certainly will die at the hands of rebels or government soldiers if they do not try.

The Arrival

A man gives his wife and daughter a last kiss and boards a steamship to cross the ocean. He’s embarking on the most painful yet important journey of his life – he’s leaving home to build a better future for his family. Shaun Tan evokes universal aspects of an immigrant’s experience through a singular work of the imagination. He does so using brilliantly clear and mesmerizing images. Because the main character can’t communicate in words, the book forgoes them too. But while the reader experiences the main character’s isolation, he also shares his ultimate joy.

This book is a wordless picturebook.

Feed the Children First: Irish Memories of the Great Hunger

The great Irish potato famine — the Great Hunger — was one of the worst disasters of the nineteenth century. Within seven years of the onset of a fungus that wiped out Ireland’s staple potato crop, more than a quarter of the country’s eight million people had either starved to death, died of disease, or emigrated to other lands. Photographs have documented the horrors of other cataclysmic times in history — slavery and the Holocaust — but there are no known photographs whatsoever of the Great Hunger.

In Feed the Children First, Mary E. Lyons combines first-person accounts of those who remembered the Great Hunger with artwork that evokes the times and places and voices themselves. The result is a close-up look at incredible suffering, but also a celebration of joy the Irish took in stories and music and helping one another — all factors that helped them endure.