Dreamers

Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
Dreamers Book Poster Image
Gorgeous, joyous book about immigrant mom and child.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Some Spanish words: "amor," "adios," "corazon," "migrantes," "soñadores," "lucha." Map of San Francisco Bay Area with locations in Spanish -- e.g., "Este" and "Parc." Protest sign in Spanish: "Sí se puede." Mexican imagery in art. Lots of real picture books in art, so kids can recognize the covers of beloved books, including classics like Doctor De SotoOfficer Buckle and Gloria, lots that are immigrant themed or represent diverse cultures like The Arrival, A Movie in my Pillow, Lon Po Po, A Boy and a Jaguar, A Mother for Choco, Home to Medicine Mountain, and Stevie. Titles of books pictured are listed at end.

Positive Messages

Immigrants bring gifts from their culture. Libraries are "unbelievable, surprising" places that open up whole new worlds. Reading and sharing books with your child is highly pleasurable. You can learn another language by reading picture books. You can express yourself and tell your own stories when you make art and books. Having two languages is empowering. Immigrants are resilient. Sometimes when life is difficult, new experiences and opportunities come your way.

Positive Role Models & Representations

When the mom discovers the library, she brings her child there frequently. The mom and boy love books. They make their own art and write their own stories. They love each other and find joy in their surroundings. Though at first the mom's afraid to speak, and overwhelmed, she perseveres and stays open to the world around her. She realizes that she has her own gifts to give. She figures out how to celebrate her original culture while living in and learning a new one.

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Dreamers is by author-illustrator Yuyi Morales, who's won numerous awards for her books, including a Caldecott Honor for Viva Frida. Here she tells the story of her own immigrant experience, traveling from her native Mexico to San Francisco, California, with her infant son. In an end note, she makes clear that the book is not about "Dreamers" as we use the word today, undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, but in the sense that all immigrants are dreamers, coming to "a new country carried by hope and dreams, and carrying our own special gifts, to build a better future." The story is told in vibrant, poetic language and images and sprinkled with Spanish. She also pictures numerous beloved, real picture books, since Morales and her son learned English in the children's book section of the San Francisco library.

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What's the story?

In DREAMERS, a mom and her baby son bundle gifts in their backpack and cross "a bridge outstretched like the universe." When they arrive on the other side, they're immigrants, "migrantes," and "The sky and the land welcomed us in words unlike those of our ancestors." As they find their way, they make mistakes, and then discover the library, where "Books became our language. Books became our home. Books became our lives. We learned to read, to speak, to write, and to make our voices heard." By the end, the two are pictured happy and joyous, "dreamers, soñadores of the world."

Is it any good?

While this exquisitely illustrated book follows the unsure path of an immigrant mom and child, it's also a heartfelt love letter to libraries and a joyous celebration of picture books. In the beginning, when the two were "unable to understand and afraid to speak, we made lots of mistakes," we see them puzzling over a map of their new city, and confronted by a policeman when they sit in a fountain. But when they discover the library and its bountiful children's section, the book takes an ecstatic turn. Author-illustrator Yuyi Morales conveys her deep love of picture books, showing the familiar covers of many of the books she came to love. Those images will be especially fun for readers, who will recognize their own old friends.

The art in Dreamers is stunning, rich with Mexican imagery. When the mom and child pack to leave, "we bundled gifts in our backpack," including a Day of the Dead skeleton, a howling dog, a guitar, and a smoking volcano, underscoring Morales's point that immigrants come bearing the gift of their culture. And the book itself slyly illustrates the point. In her new country, Morales was introduced to, and came to love, picture books. Now she creates picture books using the wealth of images she grew up with, generously offering us a lovely marriage of cultures. The list at the end of "Books That Inspired Me" is the perfect cap to this greathearted book.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the experience of the immigrant mom and baby in Dreamers. What do you think the author means when she says they brought gifts? What gifts are in their backpack? What other sorts of gifts do immigrants bring when they come to a new country?

  • Do you recognize any of the book covers or titles pictured in the library? Are any of them your favorites? If you drew a picture of your own favorite books on display in the library, what would they be?

  • What's some of the poetic language in the story? Do you think the art is poetic, too? Why do you think the mom's dress has flames at the bottom? What might that mean?

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For kids who love picture books and immigrant stories

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