Eyes on This Book: From North to South is a children’s picture book written by Rene Colato Lainez and illustrated by Joe Cepeda. This work was first published in 2010 by Children’s Book Press. It has been listed on the Commended Lists- Americas Book Award from the Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs and has also won the International Latino Book Award from Latino Literacy Now.
Book Type: Contemporary realistic fiction
Overview of the Author: Rene Colato Lainez was born in 1970 in San Salvador, El Salvador. He grew up writing due to the influence of family members, and continued to do so after immigrating to the United States at the age of 14. Lainez earned a B.A., and M.F.A., and continues to teach elementary school as an accomplished children’s book author writing about the experiences of Hispanic immigrants and children.
Overview of the Illustrator: Joe Cepeda was born in Los Angeles, CA and has degrees in engineering and illustration. After graduating, he moved to New York and immediately received an illustrating contract. He has won awards for his book illustrations and counts over thirty children’s books in his portfolio. He is published in magazines and other publications while continuing to illustrate, present at conferences, and visit schools.
Summary: From North to South is the story of a Mexican family living in San Diego whose mother gets deported while working, one day. Jose, the boy in the story, go to visit his mother who is currently living in Tijuana, waiting to return to the United States.
Multicultural Literacy: “Literature can be one of the most powerful tools for combating the ignorance that breeds xenophobic and judgmental behaviors” (Tunnell, Jacobs, Young, & Bryan, 2016). This sentence perfectly exemplifies what I believe can be accomplished through reading From North to South. To begin, the entire story is told in both English and Spanish, which is still not very common in children’s books, though Spanish is the second- most spoken language in the US. The book also portrays a very real experience that occurs daily in many parts of the country- family members being deported.
This book tells a story that is very real for many young and old people alike, who experience family members disappearing without any notice, all the time. The topic and illustrations make this text real, credible, and important for modern children to read! And, as immigration and deportation is a very real and politically-heated topic in our country right now, even if a young person does not have personal experience with immigration or deportation, they will most likely read about, hear about it, or learn about it in some way.
The author himself is a Hispanic immigrant which furthers the credibility of the story. Lainez immigrated from El Salvador and mentors/teaches many Hispanic students that no doubt have personal experience with the themes mentioned in his book. Representing this increasingly common experience in a children’s book, in Spanish and English, with relevant and seemingly-appropriate illustrations, while also mentioning real life places like Tijuana, San Diego, and El Centro Madre Assunta, projects a sense of cultural authenticity, at least in my opinion.
Visual Literacy: The colors and medium used on the part of the illustrator are immediately noticeable in this text. The bright colors represent the love Jose and his parents have for one another while also depicting a sense of light and hope for the future; for mama being able to come back to San Diego. The colors also represent the joy and vibrant nature of Mexico and Mexican culture. The medium of the paint used provides some depth and texture that is evident but does not detract from the overall intention of each illustration.
Furthermore, the illustrator uses perspective and intentional sizing to highlight the importance of the people in the story. Each page depicting a person it is noticeable that the people are painted almost a bit larger than life, certainly larger than the surrounding background. A theme of plants and flowers throughout the story, and placed on every page, also ties the thread of the text and illustrations together and alludes to a lively, hopeful, growth-minded family who will not give up until they are reunited back in San Diego. As Tunnell, Jacobs, Young, & Bryan describe, illustrations can be used as “a unifying factor that threads its way through the traditional story” (2016, p.45).
Lastly, the inclusion of a realistic map on both the front and back end pages add to a student’s understanding, providing real-world context, and increasing visual literacy to support the story.
Contemporary Realistic Fiction: From North to South is a prime example of modern realistic fiction in that it is a story that could have happened and is very realistic, not to mention that this exact scenario does in fact play out in cities all over the US every single day. The main character, Jose, is a child who many children can relate to in that he has a loving mother and father. He struggles when his mother is unexpectedly deported, which is something that too many children can also relate to. Using a child’s experience to demonstrate a very real-world problem: immigration/deportation is important as it allows for the reader (children) to identify portions of the story with their own lives (Tunnell, Jacobs, Young, & Bryan, 2016).
Immigration and deportation is not a topic usually discussed among children, in the traditional and political sense. But it is somewhat controversial in society as a whole, which makes the genre of realistic fiction perfect for approaching this topic through story (Tunnell, Jacobs, Young, & Bryan, 2016).
From North to South is a problem story in that the characters face the huge problem of mama being deported. I’d also consider it a survival book, but not in the traditional sense of adventure. This family must survive their time apart, endure the heartache that comes with it, and remain hopeful until they might be reunited.
- Cepeda, J. (n.d.). Joe Cepeda. Retrieved July 7, 2019, from https://www.joecepeda.com/
- Laínez, R. C. (2010). From north to south. San Francisco, CA: Childrens Book Press.
- Rene Colato Lainez: Penguin Random House. (n.d.). Retrieved July 7, 2019, from https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/authors/106308/rene-colato-lainez
- Tunnell, M. O., Jacobs, J. S., Young, T. A., & Bryan, G. (2016). Children’s literature, briefly (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.