Border Crossings and Codices Collide in MIGRANT by José Mateo

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“Migrant,” by José Mateo, illustrated by Javier Martínez Pedro; Abrams Books for Young Readers, $17.95, 22 pages, ages 10 and up. 


Over 5.5 million children of illegal immigrants live in the United States whose stories go largely undocumented. Migrant chronicles the tumultuous trek of a young Mexican boy who enters the United States with his mother and sister.  The border crossing is perilous, but the family arrives safely in Los Angeles. There the story ends, leaving readers to wonder what happens next - does the family stay in the United States, or are they deported? Does the boy speak English?  Author José Mateo says he kept the characters in Migrant anonymous because there are so many untold, complex tales of woe and desperation that hopes this story may speak for those without a voice.

Migrant is composed as a modern day codex, bound in an accordion foldout. The text is translated in English on one side and is in the original Spanish on the reverse. Read top to bottom, the text and illustrations recall the pre-Hispanic society that flourished in Mexico.

Award-winning artist and amate papermaker Javier Martínez Pedro rendered the images using pen and in. Reminiscent of ancient Mayan hieroglyphs, the throngs of anonymous people spiral down the foldout mural, descending from a life of relative calm into a world of uncertainty.  Pedro’s art is on his own handmade amate paper, a product similar to papyrus and is only produced in the artist’s village of Xalitla.  

The book beautifully demands a people’s right to exist, and will no doubt incite readers to learn more about this situation taking place right on our doorstep. 


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