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Somos como las nubes / We Are Like the Clouds Hardcover – October 11, 2016
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From School Library Journal
Gr 3–6—Argueta likens the spirit of refugee and immigrant children from Central America and Mexico to the movement of clouds in this collection of bilingual poetry. Some of these poems successfully evoke the fear and anxiety generated by this exodus from violence and privation. The portrayal of the tattooed Salvadoran gangs in "El barrio la campanera" is particularly visceral. But most of the poems skirt the edge of urgency, creating an emotional disconnect. Apprehension by the U.S. border patrol is a dreaded terror refugees pray to avoid. But the poem "Nos presentamos a la patrulla" ("We Introduce Ourselves to the Border Patrol") couches the nightmare in terms of an innocuous meet-and-greet. In an introductory poem, "Mi barrio," the author describes a rooster eating a Popsicle ("paleta"), but Ruano features the rooster with a lollipop—the alternate definition of the word. This misinterpretation disrupts the cyclical nature of the Popsicle motif carried forth into the concluding poem. Furthermore, the brutal march across the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts claims countless lives every year, but the image depicted implies that the crossing is nothing more onerous than a day hike. VERDICT Despite flaws, this is a much-needed jumping-off point for elementary classroom discussions of refugees and immigration.—Mary Margaret Mercado, Pima County Public Library, Tucson, AZ
USBBY's Outstanding International Books List
ALA Notable Children's Books
Cooperative Children's Book Center Choices
Américas Award Commended Title
A Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Book of the Year/strong>
"Argueta and Ruano present a unique and much-needed perspective on the reasons driving young people to immigrate to the U.S. extremely vital." Booklist, starred review
"A much-needed jumping-off point for elementary classroom discussions of refugees and immigration." School Library Journal
"The poems are vivid and accessible, and Ruano’s earth-toned acrylic illustrations show people on the move who are both fragile and strong at the same time." ― Julie Danielson, Kirkus Reviews
"Delicately illustrated and painstakingly presented, Somos como las nubes/ We are Like the Clouds is highly recommended, compassionate reading." Midwest Book Review
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When we crossed
the border at Las Chinamas
I saw the river Paz.
Its water runs smiling
between the rocks.
Here the cenzontles (mockingbirds)
never stop singing.
the gualcalchillas, (small songbirds)
and my teacher
I remembered my mother,
when I will see them again.
I look at the sky
we are like the clouds.
What I loved about this book is that there is message of hope in knowing that children are resilient, but the author does not hold back in depicting the heartbreak that goes along with leaving a home country. The book allows the reader to the experience the treacherous journey to the United States through the eyes and wonder of a child. The pictures in this book are also stunningly beautiful. The pictures depict the children’s home countries, families crossing borders, and children laying on the soft sand in the desert. The final poems in the book offer hope. In the poem “Fear,” a mother tells her child in his dream, “This is not a dream, you are in my arms.” The child has arrived to his destination in Los Angeles.
I shed tears when I read this book. It is heartbreaking and it is a poignant reminder that children are children and that there are difficult decisions that children should not have to make. In my opinion, what makes this book even more powerful is that it is written by Jorge Argueta. The author’s note at the beginning of the book shares Jorge’s own experience of fleeing El Salvador and coming to the United States. He shares his inspiration for writing the book by stating, “Like the clouds, our children come and go. Nothing and no one can stop them”.
Written by a Salvadoran poet, this book’s poetry soars and lifts even when speaking of dark and dangerous subjects. Throughout there is a focus on hope and the distant wonder of the United States. There are poems of the journey that are aching with loss. There are poems of strong parents who carry children and others of the children alone and fearful. It is a book that captures the range of immigrants coming to the United States, particularly children from Central America whose story is shared with such poignancy on these pages.
The art by Ruano is startling and beautiful. He has surreal moments in the art that capture a little touch of playfulness at first. That moves quickly to sense of isolation at times, of being alone in a stark landscape. Towards the end, there is one painting of a child afloat in the air on a blue, cloud-like sleeping bag who is finally heading home with his parents. It is a picture of such tenderness and captures the youth and dreams of these children.
An important book that shows the plight of Central American children as they walk to the United States, this is a challenging book of poetry that demands attention. Appropriate for ages 8-12.