Elem. – A Thousand White Butterflies

Betancourt-Perez, Jessica. A Thousand White Butterflies. Charlesbridge. 978-1-580-89577-4. 32 p. $16.99. Grades K-3. 

Isabella has just moved to the United States from Colombia. She’s about to begin school, but an unexpected blizzard cancels her first day. She feels trapped by all the unfamiliar snow, and she misses her friends and her Papa who is still in Colombia. While looking out the window, Isabella sees a girl slip and fall into the snow outside. She bundles into her puffy coat and boots and hurries outside to see if the girl is alright. The pair end up spending the afternoon making snow angels, snowballs, and a snowman. Despite the language barrier, they laugh and play and make the most out of their surprise meeting and unexpected day off from school. Two Author’s Notes describe how the co-authors met and the real-life inspiration behind this book. Additionally, a “More Info” section defines “immigrants” as people who leave their original country to live permanently in a new place. It also includes a brief history of immigration to the United States. Lastly, a glossary defines each Spanish word or phrase used in the story. 

THOUGHTS: Hope, resilience, and friendship are central themes in this immigration story, as is the idea that children are able to make connections with each other despite language and cultural differences. These ideas will make good talking points during morning meetings or when welcoming a new student into a classroom. Share this title with guidance counselors and ESOL teachers. 

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

Elem. – My Two Border Towns

Bowles, David and Erik Meza. My Two Border Towns. Illustrated by Erika Meza. Kokila, 2021. 978-0-593-11104-8. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-2.

Life along the U.S. – Mexico border can be more similar than different, especially for a small Hispanic boy who makes weekend trips back and forth with his father. “Vamos a la otra lado.” (Let’s go to the other side.) Once they pass through customs into the Mexican town, they run chores, visit family, and eat at their favorite places. The boy is proud of the gifts and supplies that they are collecting along the way. Erik Maza illustrates the town with friendly people, peaceful streets, and colorful tones. David Bowles brings in Spanish terms and phrases with mostly English narrative to tell their routine journey. The trip ends with an important and realistic stop near the border bridge, where a large group of refugees are camped out and waiting. “The US says there’s no room, and Mexico says it can barely look after it’s own gente.” The boy seeks out his friend who is waiting, and hands over the collected toys, comics, medicine and supplies to the grateful family. The dilemma of crossing the border freely as citizens leaves the boy, and perhaps the readers, wishing for a future of compassion and friendship.

THOUGHTS: Making a complex and never ending issue such as immigration and border control work through the eyes of a child is always a lesson in empathy. In this case, the author chooses to show the connections rather than the divisions between the two countries with a stunning effect. Discussions comparing similarities and differences between students’ towns and the story may continue the conversation. Recommended.

Picture Book          Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD