Dreamers

by on January 4th, 2019

DreamersThis week’s mock Caldecott title is Yuyi Morales’s “Dreamers”. Part memoir, part ode to reading, books, and libraries–I’ve been casually referring to this one with other staff as ‘medal bait’ with good reason. In telling us her own immigration story, Morales reveals the power that stories, libraries as institutions, and librarians as people have to impact our communities and the world in meaningful ways. And she does so resplendently.

Leaving Mexico for the United States with an infant son, our family of protagonists carry their gifts with them into the USA where even the clouds speak a foreign tongue.

Dreamers

Eventually they find an “unimaginable” place, the public library, “where [they] only needed to trust”. It is through books and this library that they learn the language and that stories can give us direction and comfort when we need it most.

Throughout “Dreamers” we see digitally collaged mixed media images that Morales has used as an opportunity to both mirror and highlight the personal details she has shared in her narrative. She uses pieces of things from her life and her past to “give the book life”. We see, her comal, traditional Mexican fabrics, plants from her garden, her son’s childhood drawings, the first book she hand made, her childhood drawings, the floor of her studio, and hand embroidery, among many other artifacts. She also used acrylic paints and a nib pen that once belonged to Maurice Sendak. You can find more information about how she made her mixed media illustrations and a virtual map to her collages here.

Dreamers

Readers will also notice that Morales has unabashedly copied covers of books, many of which you’ll recognize, and incorporated them into the latter half of her story.  She lists all the books that you’ll see in the illustrations after the author’s note. What’s so special about this is that since they’re hand made, each of these books becomes not only a piece of Morales’s visual landscape, but using them to highlight the way stories transcend boundaries, these books become pieces of our protagonists’ larger narrative. Showcasing them in the library setting, and choosing such well known titles transforms this library space into any library, and our protagonists into any family.

What really stays with me about this title is the consistency with which Morales weaves the visual and written narratives together. Book covers aside, visual metaphors are abundant throughout, including references to migratory animals who make their homes in the USA and Mexico. We see a monarch butterfly on every spread once they have crossed over into the USA, on that trek we see barn swallows, and Mexican free tailed bats who also migrate annually. When the family is crossing “a bridge outstretched like the universe” in their pack are the gifts from home that they bring with them–pieces of their culture and history. These include a Jarana Jarocha, a Xoloitzcuitli, a model of a volcano likely representing Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl, and a pencil, among other things. All of these gifts follow the protagonists throughout their journey highlighting where they’ve come from, yes, but also the wondrous things that each of us bring from home when we emigrate somewhere new.

What do you think? Is “Dreamers” the most distinguished picture book of 2018? Be sure to cast your vote in ICPL’s 2019 Mock Caldecott by January 21st.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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