Alright, I’m not going to lie: this one had me in tears. If you’re searching for a children’s book that addresses the hybridity of identity, the struggles of immigration, and the familial love that knows no boundaries, look no further than Areli Is a Dreamer, a true story by Areli Morales.
From the protagonist’s childhood in Mexico, waiting for her once-a-week call from her parents who live in the U.S., to her gradual integration into the hustle and bustle of New York, this book has it all. Morales perfectly captures the immigrant experience and, through her main character, asks important questions like Why can’t her parents come back to Mexico? What does citizenship give you? How can a human being be illegal?
These and other serious themes such as discrimination and language difficulties are intertwined with messages of hope and personal growth. While Areli learns to love New York and fit in with the people there, she never forgets her Mexican roots. In fact, Morales presents Mexico as a happy home, not a place Areli wants to escape.
Luisa Uribe’s stunning illustrations only add to the positive portrayal of both countries. The illustrator’s talent is undeniable—in one two-page spread, Uribe tells the story of Areli’s journey to the U.S. without any words at all! Even the cover art combines the aspects of Areli’s dual identity.
Morales writes from the heart, cleverly combining another aspect of her Mexican-American identity through her inclusion of Spanish words in the book. (If you don’t speak Spanish, don’t worry—there is a glossary at the end!) From cover to cover, Areli represents the dreamer in all of us; and if we all dreamed as big as the titular protagonist, the world would be a much better place.
Buy your copy through Penguin Random House.