Immigrant Stories: Life Along the Border

These stories convey the complexity of life along the U.S. border with Mexico, from the sacrifices that parents make in leaving their home behind for a new life to the separation of mixed-status families.

Some of the families depicted have the means to cross with immigration papers; others do not. With or without papers, however, these stories are based on true life experiences of the authors, their family members, or their students.

We recommend educator discretion in selecting books for class discussion.

Books for young adults

To see related titles for older readers, take a look at Immigration Stories for Young Adults: Crossing the Border.

From North to South

Illustrated by: Joe Cepeda

When Mamá is sent to a detention center in Tijuana because she doesn't have the right immigration papers, José must get used to life without her. He and his father visit Mamá at the center, where they talk about the future in which they will be together. Based on the experiences of René Colato Laínez's students, both he and illustrator Joe Cepeda strike the right balance of honesty and hope in depicting this difficult yet common situation for families along the border.

Going Home

Illustrated by: David Diaz
Age Level: 6-9

Mama and Papa are excited to take a break from working in the fields and go home, but Carlos and his sisters are not sure how they feel about traveling to Mexico. Soon after arriving, however, they meet their loving extended family, and the children begin to understand what it meant for their parents to leave home in order to offer the family a better future. David Diaz's stunning illustrations layered on top of photos of Mexican folk art bring Eve Bunting's beautiful story to life.

My Diary from Here to There

Illustrated by: Maya Christina Gonzalez
Age Level: 6-9

While the rest of the family proclaims excitement at their imminent move ("They have escalators to ride!" says one of her five brothers), Amada confides her fears to her journal: "Am I the only one who is scared of leaving our home, our beautiful country, and all the people we might never see again?" Amada Irma Pérez shares the story of her journey to the U.S. as a young girl and Maya Christina Gonzalez's fluid illustrations spill color across the page. Bilingual text.

My Shoes and I

Age Level: 9-12

Mario is leaving El Salvador with a new pair of shoes — and a good thing, too, because he has a long and difficult journey ahead of him to reach a new country. His shoes carry him through rain and across mountains, all the way to the river where his mother is waiting on the other side. Young readers may need some information explaining the context of the story, which is based on the author's journey from El Salvador in 1985. Painted illustrations on grainy wood backgrounds match the gritty but hopeful tone of the story.

Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant's Tale

Age Level: 6-9

When the rains don't come in the spring, Papá Rabbit sets out north to work in the carrot and lettuce fields. He doesn't return when expected, however, and his eldest son, Pancho Rabbit, embarks on a journey to find his father. He meets a coyote who agrees to show him a shortcut, but only in exchange for Pancho's food. After an exhausting journey, Pancho is left with nothing — except the hope of finding his father. An author's note provides extensive information and recommended resources. Winner 2014 Pura Belpré Illustrator Award and Author Honor Award.

Red Glass

Age Level: 9-12

Product Description: One night Sophie and her parents are called to a hospital where Pedro, a six-year-old Mexican boy, is recovering from his trip across the border. Pedro comes to live with Sophie, her parents, and Sophie's Aunt Dika, a refugee of the war in Bosnia. Sophie loves Pedro — her Principito, or Little Prince. But after a year, Pedro's surviving family in Mexico makes contact, and Sophie must travel with Pedro to his hometown so that he can make a heartwrenching decision. An Américas Award Honor Book.

Star in the Forest

Age Level: 9-12

Product Description: Zitlally's family is undocumented, and her father has just been arrested for speeding and deported back to Mexico. As her family waits for him to return — they've paid a coyote to guide him back across the border — they receive news that he and the coyote's other charges have been kidnapped and are being held for ransom. Meanwhile, Zitlally and a new friend find a dog in the forest near their trailer park. They name it Star for the star-shaped patch over its eye.

Super Cilantro Girl/La Superniña del Cilantro

Illustrated by: Honorio Robleda Tapia
Age Level: 9-12

What happens when a small girl suddenly starts turning green, as green as a cilantro leaf, and grows to be fifty feet tall? She becomes Super Cilantro Girl, and can overcome all obstacles, that's what! Esmeralda Sinfronteras is the winning super-hero in this effervescent tale about a child who flies huge distances and scales tall walls in order to rescue her mom. Award-winning writer Juan Felipe Herrera taps into the wellsprings of his imagination to address and transform the concerns many first-generation children have about national borders and immigrant status.

The Maldonado Miracle

Age Level: 9-12

Product Description: After Jose's mother died, his father left to work in the United States, leaving Jose on his own in Mexico. Jose's attempt to cross the border is harrowing, and his stay at a migrant worker camp turns into a nightmare, forcing him to flee for his life. Hiding out in a church seems a wise thing to do — until the blood dripping from his wounded shoulder lands on a statue of Christ. Now everyone thinks the statue itself is bleeding. Jose's accidental "miracle" kick-starts a media frenzy — and threatens the future of an entire town.