Canadian Children's Book Centre's Reviews > Migrant

Migrant by Maxine Trottier
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Sep 27, 2011

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“What would it be like to stay in one place — to have your own bed, to ride your own bicycle? ... Now that would be something.” Meet Anna, the youngest daughter of Low German-speaking Mennonites, migrant workers who travel to Canada from Mexico every spring to earn their livelihood by harvesting fruit and vegetables. Anna describes her annual displacement in terms which she can understand. She compares herself to a bird: “It is the birds, after all, flying north in the spring and south every fall.” Because she resides in a rundown farmhouse with “...the rooms filled with the ghosts of last year’s workers,” she sometimes feels like a jack rabbit inhabiting an abandoned burrow. Though young, Anna knows that she is an outsider. The migrants are stared at when they go to town, and the foreign languages Anna hears around her sound “ though a thousand crickets are all singing a different song.” When fall comes, the workers return to Mexico where they remain until spring, and the cycle begins anew.

Maxine Trottier has written a poignant account of what it is like to be a child in a migrant family. We learn of the workers’ plight through little Anna, who yearns to live in just one place and belong. The eloquent text effectively juxtaposes Anna’s florid imagination with the stark realities facing her family. Included is an illuminating afterword describing the challenging working conditions experienced by the seasonal labourers who, most likely, have harvested much of the food on our tables.

Isabelle Arsenault’s watercolour, gouache, crayon and collage illustrations depict Anna’s reality as well as her imaginary world. The colourful artwork seems to be child-like in execution and perspective. It is almost as if Anna herself had drawn them.

Readers of Migrant might be moved to take some action, appropriate to their young age, towards enhanced equality, or at least talk about what they have learned with others. “Now that would be something.”

Reviewed by Senta Ross in Canadian Children's Book News (Spring 2011, Vol. 34, No. 2)

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