Between Us and Abuela by Mitali Perkins

Mitali Pekins offers a touching tribute to generational attachment across years and borders.

Between Us and Abuela: a Family Story from the Border by Mitali Perkins, Illustrated by Sara Palacios. Farrar Strauss Girard, 2019, 34 pages

Reading Level: Picture Book, ages 4-8

Recommended for: ages 4-10 as a read-aloud, 6-10 for independent readers

La Pasada Sin Fronteras—“The Inn without Borders”—is one day in December when families in San Diego and Tijuana, separated by immigration laws, can meet and exchange Christmas gifts. Maria and Juan, with their mother Sylvia, are on their way to visit Abuela with their own gifts—a hand-knit scarf from Maria and a picture on cardboard drawn by Juan. The picture shows Mary and Joseph surrounded by boxes: “Inns,” with no room. At the border, Abuela is waiting behind a mesh and slab fence. Their visit is sweet but short, and all too soon the border patrol signals time is up. Too late, the children learn that nothing can pass through the fence. The scarf can be mailed, but what about the bulky cardboard picture? Maria has to think fast and come up with a creative solution.

Mitali Perkins, one of our favorite authors, handles a hot-button issue with grace and resteraint. Her author’s note explains the tradition of La Pasada Sin Fronteras, dating from 1993, without judgment—it’s up to readers to decide the pros and cons of border fences. But there is no barrier to love—which,  in this gentle story, finds a way.

Overall Rating: 4.75 (out of 5)

  • Worldview/moral value: 5
  • Artistic/literary value: 4.5

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More at Redeemed Reader

Also by Mitali Perkins: Tiger Boy, Rickshaw Girl, Forward Me Back to You, Bamboo People, and You Bring the Distant Near. For a starker, darker view of the southern border, see our review of Beast Rider.

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Janie is the VERY senior staff writer for Redeemed Reader, as well as a long-time contributor to WORLD Magazine and an author of nine books for children. The rest of the time she's long-distance smooching on her four grandchildren (not an easy task). She lives with her equally senior husband of almost-fifty years in the Ozarks of Missouri.


  1. Beckey on December 29, 2019 at 9:48 pm

    This year I found Mitali Perkins through this blog. She is an excellent author and of the books I’ve read, she tackles tough subjects with grace. I like that she writes for a variety of ages. I look forward to reading this one as well.

    • Janie on December 30, 2019 at 4:33 am

      Thanks, Becky. She’s one of our favorites, and we’re so happy to introduce you to her!

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