Mamá the Alien/Mamá la Extraterrestre

Book review by
Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media
Mamá the Alien/Mamá la Extraterrestre Book Poster Image
A fun, bilingual take on being a documented immigrant.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Explains the terms "resident alien" and "permanent resident" and indicates that an immigrant can become a citizen. Explains that "alien" can mean two things: someone from outer space and someone from a different country. The full text appears in both English and Spanish.

Positive Messages

Don't worry that your mom is from outer space if she has an identity card that says "alien" on it. Immigrants can get cards that allow them to stay in the United States. Immigrants can become citizens. Follow your dreams.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Sophia is smart and resourceful: To learn more about outer space aliens, she goes to the library to learn about them from books. Her parents are kind and loving and encourage her to follow her dream of being a basketball player. 

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Mamá the Alien is a cute, bilingual picture book that introduces issues related to immigration, documentation, and citizenship in a warm, lighthearted way for kids. It starts with young Sophia finding her mother's resident alien card and jumping to the conclusion that Mamá is from outer space, and it ends with Mamá celebrating after her U.S. citizenship ceremony. This kid-friendly introduction to these concepts has vibrant, playful, engaging art and should help immigrant and non-immigrant families alike understand a bit more about the path to citizenship. 

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What's the story?

In MAMÁ THE ALIEN, young Sophia finds an identification card stamped "ALIEN" in her mother's purse and asks, "Is that a real card?" Her mother answers, "Of course it's real. See my picture?" She goes on to say, "When I came to the United States, my dream was to get this card. I don't need it anymore, but I keep it with me for good luck." Later she asks her dad if he has one, too, and he says, "No. I don't have a card because I was born here." The trouble is, Sophia knows the word "alien" as meaning an alien from outer space, and she assumes that her mother is one of those. And since she looks like her mom -- her dad calls her "Mama's twin" --  does that mean "I'm an alien too!?" Her imagination runs wild as she tires to sort out the puzzle.

Is it any good?

This lighthearted take on immigration and documentation shows a kid's confusion about what a resident alien identification card means. Laura Lacámara's bright, funny illustrations bring Sophia's imaginings to life -- including encounters with beings from other planets and catching her mom in curlers and a green facial mask, which seems to confirm her identity as Mamá the Alien.

Sophia's dad finally explains that an "alien" in English can mean someone from another country and that her mama's current ID car says "Permanent Resident "at the top. And the climax of the story is Mama's ceremony to become a U.S. citizen. An author's note explains the history of the two kinds of cards-- alien and resident -- and reflects his own experience coming to th United States from El Salvador in 1985 and becoming a citizen. Many immigrant families will find meaning in this cute story, and other families will gain some understanding of immigrants' path to citizenship.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what immigrants go though in Mamá the Alien. Do you know anyone who wasn't born in the United States but became a U.S. citizen?

  • What can a citizen of a country do that non-citizens can't do? 

  • The United States ia a nation of immigrants. Do you know what country your parents or their ancestors came from? 

Book details

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