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Monday, April 3, 2017

Somos como las nubes/ We Are Like the Clouds, by Jorge Argueta with pictures by Alfonso Ruano. Translated by Elisa Amado. Groundwood Books, 2016. $18.95 ages 8 and up

"He is the boss.
He is the one who tells the gang,
Hit this one, hit that one.
I don't want to be this one or
that one,
Let's go, I say to my father.
Let's go, I say to my mother.
Let's go as far away as we can,
where those words
can't touch us."

This frightening poem is written to help readers understand but one of the reasons thousands of children flee their homelands for a more secure life in the United States ... at least until now. There are so many threats to the lives of those who travel from El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico to the southern borders of America. Despite the terror of the journey itself, it is better than staying where they are.

Jorge Argueta's timely and heartbreaking Spanish words bring the plight of so many to life as he describes the fears, the doubts, the dangers, and ultimately the hopes that push them toward a new and better place. They leave their homes for many reasons - poverty, violence, war, to find family who have gone ahead of them. Elisa Amado translates his words bringing power and understanding to his poetry.


iPod left today
for Guatemala.
He told me, If I can
I will go to Mexico.
And if I can to Arizona,.
And if I can to Washington
where my mother is living.

my good friend,
I wish you a safe trip.
I will take care
of your dog.
Of your iPod, not so much,
since you sold it
to buy your bus ticket."

We need to know their lives, their feelings, their hopes, their sacrifices if we are to feel empathy for their need to immigrate, to find hope and peace, to find family. Empathy will guide us toward sympathy and understanding, and hopefully, acceptance. How many leave everything behind them? These poems remain true to their situation and place readers alongside the children as they tell their own personal stories.

Alfonso Ruano’s acrylic artwork brings the children to life in their own surroundings, and on their travels. Realistic, while surreal at times, his images are a blend of quiet and bold colors in keeping with each poem's tone. He moves us from the beauty of the Central American countries to the wastelands the children must pass through to get to their destinations. 

This is a very important book. Please share it.

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