By Elizabeth Lopez
My Shoes and I by René Colato Laínez, and published by Boyds Mills Press, is an inspiring story about a boy named Mario and the journey he makes with his father across three borders to the United States from El Salvador.
Shortly before their trip, Mario receives a pair of shoes from his mother as a Christmas gift; they prove to be his source of strength. During their trip, Mario encounters both physical and emotional challenges that include dangerous situations.
In one memorable scene, Mario keeps his determination by telling himself, "Uno, dos, tres, my shoes and I are almost there. We have made it all the way from El Salvador to here. We can finish. Yes, we can." All the while safeguarding and protecting his beloved shoes.
Colato Laínez successfully portrays the fear, excitement, pain, and sadness that are all often felt by immigrant children on their way to the U.S. from Central and South America.
Fabricio Vanden Broeck uses oil pastels on wood to create rich earthy illustrations that beautifully portray Mario's emotions. By using wood, Vanden Broeck is also able to create lines that effectively add a sense of movement and action to the storyline as Mario and his father travel through the changing landscape.
The story provides children an opportunity to learn about the value of hope and perseverance through difficult circumstances while at the same time validating the experiences of immigrant children.
This book is a great choice for elementary school teachers on the subject of immigration. Colato Laínez does an excellent job of portraying a difficult situation in a tender but powerful manner. Recommended for children ages 7-9.
Elizabeth López is Outreach Librarian for Latino Services in Hillsboro, Oregon. She is a member of the Review 'N Receive program.