Maxine Trottier, author

Isabelle Arsenault, illustrator

Groundwood Books, House of Anansi Press,  2011, Fiction

Suitable for: Ages 4-8

Theme:  Migrant workers, Mennonites, Mexico and Canada

Opening/Synopsis“There are times when Anna feels like a bird.  It is the birds, after all, that fly north in the spring and south every fall, chasing the sun, following the warmth.  Her family is a flock of geese beating its way there and back again.”  Anna is the daughter of a special group of Mennonite migrants from Mexico that travel to Canada to work in the agricultural fields each spring.  Anna  wonders what it would be like to stay in one place, to have her own bed, to ride her own bicycle.  Anna sometimes feels like a jack rabbit without a burrow, a bee and not a worker bee, and a kitten sharing a bed with siblings. Most important, she wonders what it would feel like to be a tree with firmly planted roots so that she could watch the seasons pass and never have to be uprooted when spring and fall arrive.

Why I like this book:  Maxine Trottier has written a very unique and whimsical book about a little girl who wants to live somewhere permanently.   Trottier’s text is simple and lyrical.  Isabelle Arsenault’s illustrations are beautiful and have a sense of humor –even the geese wear prayer caps.  Migrant has won of the New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book of 2011.  I have written many newspaper articles over the years about migrant workers, the hardships, and the challenges for the children.  But, I never knew the story about the Canadian Mennonites that moved to northern Mexico in the 1920s with the hope of farming and finding religious freedom.  They maintained their dual citizenship, which has allowed them to return to Canada each spring to work in the agricultural fields planting and harvesting crops.  It is difficult for them to earn a living in Northern Mexico due to droughts during the summer months.  Some find jobs in industry.  Life is hard life for these peace-loving Mennonites, especially the children.  Many speak Low German.   They wear plain clothing, and the women and girls wear white caps and the men wear hats.  They cling to their old ways and peace-loving traditions.  There is background information on the Low-German Mennonites from Mexico in the back of the book.

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

32 thoughts on “Migrant

  1. Thanks Pat for bringing this book to my attention. A subject well worth sharing with young and old alike. One of many stories in our vast world; this subject gives unique focus and attention to our innate, universal need for “home.”


    • Susanna, glad you enjoyed the book. Since I focused on the Amish, thought it might be nice to end the summer with migrant workers. Many in Ohio. But, I loved this little known story about the Mennonites.


  2. Now I want to run out and find that book to use with my grandchildren. Of course, I love to read and have a book waiting wherever I sit. You have given me just enough info to make me interested in this author and especially this book. Thanks a million!!


    • Prscilla, thank you for vsiting. I found this gem by accident last spring. Perfect review for the summer months with so many children of migrants in North America. But, this one really touched my heart.


  3. The illustrations in this book are beautiful and the story is so compelling. I remember thinking when I read it how hard it is for migrants, whether with papers or not, to be on the move so much, and how especially difficult it is for their children. I too had never heard about these Mennonites until I read this book. Perhaps their story will help spark conversations about all migrant labor and countries having more humane policies.


    • Craig, I used to write a lot a magazine and newspaper features about the migrants when I was a reporter in NW Ohio. A lot of tomatoes there. Got run off a few farms too, because the living conditions were horrible and the farmers didn’t treat them well. We had a big Migrant Rest Center in NW Ohio that provided medical care, and programs for the children. Hopefully, things have improved. But, it is an important issue. And, I was stunned to find out the inbo about the Mennonites.


  4. A great book for everyone in my area, it is full of migrant Mexican workers, who leave their families behind to earn a living. Lovely choice, Pat!


    • Thanks Catherine. It’s very worthy of the prestigious award it received. We have many migrants too and I’ve seen first hand. But, these migrants were different and I found their story fascinating — and the history too. It also fit nicely with the Amish books I’ve reveiwed recently.


  5. Thanks for this great review! Some of my friends are Mennonites and I was also intrigued by some of their stories/histories in Mexico and South American nations.


    • Glad you liked the review. We have a lot of Mennonites in our area. I was very intrigued with the history. Kind of went a long with the Amish books I review recentely. Thanks for stopping.


  6. Thank you for introducing this book to us, Pat. I was aware of there being Canadian Mennonites in Mexico, because of a friend of mine from years ago whose Mennonite relatives lived in Mexico, but I was unaware that some of them traveled to Canada as migrant workers. There is a large number of Mennonites in Manitoba, the province immediately east of us, and I suspect some of these migrants go there. (That’s where my friend lived.)

    Yet another eye-opening book.


    • Beth, I was hoping you’d see my review. I knew you would have something to say. We have a lot of Mennonites in Ohio, but not from Mexico. The interesting fact is that they are an older German order and still maintain dual citizenship, which allows them to migrate. The research is very interesting. It was an eye-opener for me. We have many migrants in Ohio. But, this is a very different group. Fascinating. But, back to the story, which is truly about finding “home.”


  7. The cover looks as lovely as the story sounds. I’ve read PBs on children from Asia immigrating to the States, but haven’t read about this culture at all. I’ll be going to the library this evening. Hopefully there’s a copy there! (I think I’m quite in love with the artwork.)


  8. This sounds like a wonderful book and a topic many are not aware of. I work for Mennonite Central Committee and I have Mennonite cousins so this has extra special meaning for me. I will be purchasing a copy.


  9. Hi Pat, sorry I haven”t been able to post till now, as I have been on holiday. This topic is very interesting and brought back memories of my visit to Canada many years ago when friends of ours took us to visit an Amish community. I remember while looking at crafts in one of the houses I glanced outside the window in time to see a horse and cart race by with the driver in black hat and cape and long beard. It looked very dramatic. The women were lovely and explained their simple way of life, dressed in simple clothes, white caps and white aprons, we were offered some of their home cooking. I was so intrigued and the memory has remained with me. I was unaware of the Mennonite who travel between Mexico and Canada, so this is very interesting, thankyou for sharing. I must read back a couple of your posts to read more. Thankyou Pat.


    • Diane, I’m glad you enjoyed the book. I think mny of us were surprised that there is a Migrnt group of Mennonites that travels to work in the fields and businesses of Canada. It is inteesting to visit an Amish community, as we have many in Ohio. Love to visit some of their shops and restaurants. We also have many Mennonites in Ohio, and in Dayton. Thanks for sharing your experience.


  10. I find that cover to be beautiful. I am drawn to whimsical illustrations and that one makes me smile! Thanks Patricia 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s