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.