By Jorge Argueta, illustrated by Alfonso Ruano. Groundwood Books, 2016. 36 pages. $18.95/hardcover; $16.95/PDF. Recommended for ages 7–12.
A book of poems, in Spanish with English translations, Somos como las nubes / We Are Like the Clouds is a poignant exploration in words (by Jorge Argueta) and images (by Alfonso Ruano) of the experience of all too many Latin American children who in recent years have chosen to make the perilous journey north to the United States, often alone, in search of safety, relatives, and peace, when life at home has become unbearable. Argueta, who himself was a refugee from El Salvador’s wars of the ’80s, visited child refugees in a San Diego detention center, some of the many who began pouring into the United States in 2014, and was moved to turn their jumbled feelings into poems. Twenty-two are gathered here, each a window into the heart.
The poems are accompanied by dream-like paintings by Ruano which seamlessly unite with the words—images of birds, deserts, clouds, home villages, jungle roads, wire walls and border guards, starry nights and popsicle vendors.
This book could well be read by parents and children together to engender conversation and empathy for their fellow children to the south. Why does this happen? What should be our country’s response to their plight? When have we had to leave home like them?
This is a timely and timeless little book, to be read again and again, in English and Spanish, that says more than its words, shows more than its images, of the anguish and hope of our inter-American and global community in the throes and flows of migration.
As the title says, these children, all children are “like the clouds”—nothing and no one can keep them from following the wind to the land of their dreams.