Summary: A young girl, her brother, and mother visit the San Diego border to celebrate Las Posadas and see their Grandmother through the border fence at Christmas. A great book to spark a conversation.
I read this tonight for the first time with my 5-year-old. I am intentionally filling my kids’ library not just with books, but books that will lead to conversations. Between Us and Abuela is a book that is going to take several readings to get through the conversations that it should bring up.
The short version of Between Us and Abuela is that a girl, her brother, and mother go to the border to see their grandmother and celebrate Las Posadas (the commemoration of Mary and Joseph looking for a room in Jerusalem right before Christmas.) There is an annual commemoration on the US/Mexico border called La Posada Sin Frontera. The tradition is adapted, so family and friends gather along the border wall in San Diego/Tijuana, hear the Christmas story, sing songs and see family across the fence.
The children and their mother have not seen their grandmother in five years. My five year old asked how long that was, I reminded her that she is five years old.
The family is allowed 30 minutes to go inside an outer fence so that there is only an inner fence that separates the family. My daughter, of course, asks why they are separated. I will approach this in several different ways as we re-read the book. But it matters that the story naturally leads to the right types of questions.
They are not allowed to pass anything through the fence. The girl understands that she is not allowed to give her Grandmother the scarf that she knitted for her. The younger brother has made a picture for his grandmother and is distraught about the fact he can not give it to her. This leads the girl to design a quick kite with the yarn and knitting needles that she has brought along that can fly over the fence (and which the border patrol does not prevent since they are technically not violating the rules of passing anything through the wall.)
I kept myself under control, but I was on the edge of tears throughout the second half of the book. Family matters, and this book shows that well.
The art is beautifully done and matches the light Christmas theme of the book. Mitali Perkins is a Christian and has written both explicitly Christian books and books that are less overt in their Christian message. Between Us and Abuela is a book that hints about Christianity, other than being set expressly at Christmas.