BETWEEN US AND ABUELA by Mitali Perkins depicts the hardship of distance between family members set against the backdrop of the annual Christmastime tradition of La Posada Sin Fronteras. During this time, family members in the USA and Mexico can visit for 30 minutes, albeit separated by high fencing. Told with a hopeful air of anticipation, this picture book provides both an introduction to the issues surrounding distant families and the belief that humanity can prevail.
María and Juan haven’t seen their Abuela in five years, and they are preparing homemade gifts to give her when they arrive at the border for La Posada Sin Fronteras. María’s knitted scarf will keep Abuela warm on the hard ride back home, and Juan’s cardboard image of Mary and Joseph with “Inns. No rume.” written on it. After a bus ride and a long walk on the beach, they arrive at the entrance to wait their turn. María soon realizes that Juan’s gift won’t fit between the holes in the fence, and she hopes her brother will forget about it in his excitement to see Abuela.
The reunion is a happy jumble of kisses on fingers, hurried exchange of family news, singing of Christmas songs, and finally a hurried attempt to push the scarf through the fence…but the border officer stops them. “We’ll send it by mail, María,” the mother assures her. Juan’s gift, more difficult to mail, presents a more upsetting problem. As Juan howls and María glares at the fences, an idea of how to get her younger brother’s gift to her Abuela.
The illustrations reflect the joyful story with clear expressions and just the right amount of detail for young children to imagine the border fence, the emotions, and the childlike perseverance of the characters. Sara Palacios creates a picturesque world that threads today’s reality and a more hopeful future together for us all to imagine.
Between Us and Abuela offers children a story that includes perseverance, hope, and some semblance of feeling in control of the circumstances surrounding them. And while the story leans towards idealized and fanciful in many ways (the border agents are more patient and lenient than you’d expect), that is what children need in the face of current events and anxiety-filled lives. Highly recommended for ages 3-6 and beyond.