Author: Maxine Trottier
Illustrator: Isabelle Arsenault
Publisher: Groundwood Books, 2011
Audience: 4 and up
Summary: Anna’s family travels from Mexico to Canada each summer to harvest fruits and vegetables. They are from a Mennonite community that once lived in Canada and left for Mexico seeking freedom to worship. Now they return each year to harvest the crops. They have maintained their language, low German, and their community identity. Anna has an imagination that mutes and even enriches the hardship of travel, long working hours for her family, poor living quarters, little money, and being different. She flies like a goose, borrows a jack rabbit’s burrow, flies from plant to plant like a bee, snuggles with her sister’s like a kitten, hears languages as a thousand crickets, and imagines being like a tree with deep roots that never moves. Fall comes and Anna and her family travel back to Mexico “…like a robin, like a feather in the wind.” The author provides information about the Mennonite migrants who travel from Mexico to Canada each year at the close of the story.
Literary elements at work in the story: Pictures and text in Migrant are a single voice; the book has won prizes for both its art ( NY TIMES, Best Illustrated, 2011) and story (ALA Notable Books, 2012). Anna’s imagination lifts this story through and beyond the hardships of migrant life. Metaphors, Anna’s imaginative tool, may require some introduction to young readers and some practice in their use.
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? Anna’s rather matter of fact account of her family’s life shows an economic disparity and a cultural divide.
Theological Conversation Partners: Migrant workers are a crucial part of the work that brings food to our tables. Their working conditions, their pay, their living conditions are often harsh, seldom good. By Jesus’ measure they are among “the least of these.” Migrant is a child’s introduction to this area of God’s concern. The Bible is full of God’s special concern for the poor and the weak. ( Exodus 22:21-27; Psalm 12:5,6; Psalm 146:5-9; Mark 12: 28-31;James 2: 14-17) Economic injustice is a hard concept for elementary children but they can understand poor houses, limited food, and hard work and God’s clear instructions about being kind to strangers. Imagination is a gift from God; it is a doorway to empathy and compassion. Jesus saw the crowd with compassion as sheep without a shepherd. Anna will give young children awareness of and practice in using this gift that enables them to see others and their needs.
Faith Talk Questions:
- Anna’s family are Mennonites. Find out about Mennonites, their beliefs and their culture.
- Anna has a good imagination. Give some examples of what she imagines.
- What does Anna’s story tell you about the life of a migrant worker?
- Can you imagine what Anna’s life is like?
- What good things does Anna have in her life?
- Anna imagines being like a tree with deep roots. This is one of the Bible’s favorite images of people who obey God’s law. See Psalm 1.
- Is any of the food you eat picked by migrant workers?
- Many churches are concerned about the lives of migrant workers: where they live, what they are paid, how they are treated. Does your church have any special work with migrants? How can you help?
- A good imagination is a gift from God. It is a way of thinking about things we want to happen, about good possibilities. What do you imagine?
- Imagination helps us to read the Bible. Choose a favorite story of Jesus and imagine that you are there.
This review was written by regular contributor Virginia Thomas.
Migrant by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.