Winner Wednesdays: Dreamers, Yuyi Morales’ Authentic Immigrant Narrative

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This year, the esteemed Pura Belpre recognition for illustration in Latino Literature was awarded to Yuyi Morales’ Dreamers. A heartfelt picture book with eloquent style and lovely illustrations, Dreamers tells the story of the author/illustrator when she and her infant son migrated to the United States from Mexico. Morales’ own experience shines through in her artistic retelling, which is accompanied by meticulous multimedia illustration and poetic word choice. The cover, pictured above, is marvelous, and depicts the author and her son alongside imagery that evokes Mexican artistic tradition and themes of immigration (migrating birds and butterflies).

Thanks to Morales’ stylistic choices, the reader floats through her story. The reading experience is heartwarming and familiar. It inspires in the reader a longing to more deeply understand the plight of immigrants. Specifically, the imagery, which contains elements of traditional Mexican art, conveys the cross-cultural themes of the book. Morales’ use of multiple mediums draws the reader in, and moves the eye skillfully across the page. Through her illustrations, Morales subtly refers to themes of resourcefulness, improvisation, craft, and minimalism. The imagery feels cozy and safe, and creates an overall environment of comfort and hope throughout the book.

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The use of bilingual Spanish and English writing underscores the theme of cross-cultural experience.

Dreamers is an important example of cultural and experiential representation in children’s literature. Sims Bishop explained how books serve as both mirrors and windows for the readers, reflecting an experience that the reader shares or propelling the reader into an experience that is different from their own. Morales’ award-winning book is a wonderful example of how an immigrant experience narrative in children’s literature can inspire hope and a sense of commonality of experience for immigrant children. Children who speak both Spanish and English will see their experience reflected by the bilingual nature of the book, which uses words from both of the author’s language intermittently to convey cross-cultural experience. Importantly, it can also serve to teach young readers who have not experienced something similar about the immigrant experience. For all readers, the themes of libraries and storytelling will hopefully spark a love for reading.

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One of the first scenes when Morales and her son arrive in the U.S. The illustration effectively conveys both the welcomeness and the unfamiliarity.

While one book alone cannot serve as a comprehensive lesson on a certain experience, and while immigrant experiences are each unique, Morales’ work here can provide important insight for young readers who are beginning to understand complex themes like culture, tradition, and living around people from diverse backgrounds. It is my hope that readers will enjoy the beautiful piece of art and important narrative that is Dreamers, just as I did.

-Hannah Salaverry

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