From the prolific author of The Moon Within comes the heart-wrenchingly beautiful story in verse of a young Latinx girl who learns to hold on to hope and love even in the darkest of places: a family detention center for migrants and refugees.
Nine-year-old Betita knows she is a crane. Papi has told her the story, even before her family fled to Los Angeles to seek refuge from cartel wars in Mexico. The Aztecs came from a place called Aztlan, what is now the Southwest US, called the land of the cranes. They left Aztlan to establish their great city in the center of the universe-Tenochtitlan, modern-day Mexico City. It was prophesized that their people would one day return to live among the cranes in their promised land. Papi tells Betita that they are cranes that have come home.
Then one day, Betita's beloved father is arrested by Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) and deported to Mexico. Betita and her pregnant mother are left behind on their own, but soon they too are detained and must learn to survive in a family detention camp outside of Los Angeles. Even in cruel and inhumane conditions, Betita finds heart in her own poetry and in the community she and her mother find in the camp. The voices of her fellow asylum seekers fly above the hatred keeping them caged, but each day threatens to tear them down lower than they ever thought they could be. Will Betita and her family ever be whole again?
A book in verse by the author of The Moon Within, it tells the story of a Latina girl, Betita, whose father has been separated from them due to migration issues and has been arrested. He gets deported to Mexico while her pregnant mother and she got detained and had to live in inhuman conditions ill-treated and neglected. She gets to learn how discriminated and hated they are just because they are immigrants and different from the people there.
This story is heartbreaking and left me wondering, yet again, how we still buckle under selfish reasons of our own and mistreat another human being just because they look different from us. We still cannot accept the fact that we human are different from each other and we have the same emotions of happiness and hurt; love and kindness; hope and faith.
I love how the writing shines more in verse form and highlights how Betita finds some comfort in writing poetry. Her poetry is still stuck on my heart. Short yet meaningful.
The characters are developed well. I find the story quite motivating. It gives me hope that a bad situation does not last forever.
*I love the black and white sketches in between the chapters.
*Police brutality, difficult pregnancy and loss, inhuman unsanitary living conditions
I don't know how I could ever do this book justice in a review. But I can urge you to read it. It's a beautifully written verse novel, and such a hard hitting story that needs to be told and needs to be heard.
CWs: detention, deportation, ICE, separating of family members, violence, sexual assault, blood
This book is essential reading for every single human. It's heartbreaking and heartwarming, a hug to every immigrant, a love letter to family. I utterly adored reading Betita's story and I'm so excited for it to take flight and soar.
The author is known to me as someone who does not shy away from voicing her fears and atrocities inflicted on First Nations of United Nations. In another unique effort to bring such stories to fore, this book-in-verse has been written.
It tore me apart.
Betita, this sweet 9 year old who just learnt to spell big words in her East LA school where she lives, who loves the stories told by her Papi about the Aztecs of Aztlán (he calls them cranes), is now in a private institution that holds undocumented people in jail. The setting is in US, the very country that under the Trump administration came to be known as unwelcoming to migrants. It is inspired from true stories of a larger community of adults and children who faced the horrors of cold cells, concrete floors and mouldy food.
The author has been very successful in shining the light on reality through Betita's situation. She is separated from her Papi, her mother and her unborn sister. She loses count of the days. It gets increasingly difficult to believe in Papi's words 'Find sweetness in reality'. Does she hold on to hope just enough and see the light of day? Read to know more.
In Aida's own words, it is a picture poem. The words are accompanied by full-blown images of drawings. They are beautiful. No colors but plenty to say.
It is gut wrenching.
ps - I held back a star because the Spanish words in the beginning slowed me down a lot. Although, it was a great learning opportunity to know more about another language, it did bother me because the story had a pace that really hooked me in. Also, there were chapters at the end that failed to communicate Betita's emotions and I felt left out. The verse, even in free flow, did nothing to evoke the emotion of support from me. Hence 4/5.
Young Betita is happy with her home life. She creates beautiful poetry with images to depict what she loves in life. Her father encourages her to always find the dulzura in life. But things change dramatically when Betita's father is swept up in an ICE raid and deported to Mexico. Her pregnant mother and Betitita are trying to stay positive, but things seem grim. When they make an attempt to visit her father at the border, things turn worse. Betita and her mother are taken to a detention center. This is the bulk of the story.
Betita is scared, but she tries to find the sweetness in the situation. She takes solace in creating animals and a doll made out of toilet paper. She makes a friend with a young girl that confides in her the horrors of the last detention center she was in. She takes care of her mother.
The story highlights the atrocities that take place against immigrants every day. This is not unique to the U.S. either. Nor to the current administration.
Betita was a profoundly moving narrator, capturing an incredibly important experience in Trump's America. The writing was so perfect, with Salazar using beautiful metaphors and searing images to capture the reader's heart. The writing especially makes this a highly recommended choice for study in book clubs or as a whole-class novel, with rich language to discuss and unpack.
Whew. This is a gorgeous, gorgeous, heartbreaking book. I listened to the audio version and marveled time and time again over the lyricism of Salazar's poetry. Part of the impact was the beautiful performance (kudos to Dani Gonzalez), but so much of it was Salazar's use of extended metaphor to build a narrative in which immigrants move through the world like cranes seeking (and seeking to build) their great city.
Because we can choose not to be confronted regularly with images depicting the horrors of deportment and incarceration at the border, it's easy to imagine it's not happening and that families aren't suffering. Salazar's novel, told from the perspective of 9-year-old Betita, is a powerful reminder that it IS happening and that suffering abounds. The novel is also a testament to the healing power of art. Betita is an artist and uses picture poems to both make sense of and deal with what's happening. Her resilience in the face of such trauma is remarkable.
A beautiful, heart-wrenching tween novel in verse that highlights the problem of undocumented immigrants in the US. Told from the point of view of 9-year-old Betita, it follows the painful story of her small family after her father is arrested by ICE and deported back to Mexico and she and her pregnant mother are sent to a detention centre where they are treated horribly and children are often separated from their parents. "I wrote Land of the Cranes with an understanding of the long and devastating history of raids, separations, deportations, incarcerations, and deaths my community has suffered. But also, I wrote from an intimate place. I, like Betita, was an undocumented child. I was born in Mexico and brought to the United States as a baby. My childhood fear of "La Migra" (immigration enforcement) and how they could easily rip our family apart hung over me until we received our green cards, though this was not necessarily a guarantee of safety. The immigrant community in which Betita was raised in East LA, and the fears, stigmas, and prejudices her community faced are mine, too. " This is what the author writes in the postface of the book. Land of the Cranes is a timely, poetic and necessary book and I can only hope more young people will read it.
Three stars because I am tiring of the Middle Grade/YA novel in episodic free verse format. This book is heartbreaking, as is the thought that it is needed in school libraries and children's collections because so many children worldwide are survivors of similar trauma. I won't repeat the synopsis but the ICE detention camp is carefully rendered for a 7 - 11 aged reader. Stinking toilets, rough and racist guards, but little egregious or detailed violence. Betita isn't entirely separated from her mother - to fully render that horror would move it out of this age range.
Anne Frank haunts this book: the little girl writing poems and drawing pictures that are left behind (found by her lawyer and used to tell the detainees' version of events to the outside world ), the camps, the showers, the lice, the relentless dehumanization - not only of the children and mothers, but of the guards, as well.
For this adult reader, it asks, "How far will we go?" - because we damn well know the next step. This is not a question that should be asked of eight year olds anywhere in this world.
3.5 stars--This is a touching and intense junior novel, based upon real-life incidents, of a young girl and her family who are held in a detention camp on the U.S. border with Mexico.
While the bird metaphors can get a little too numerous throughout the book, it is well-written and thought-provoking. It will be difficult for any reader to brush aside the controversy regarding ICE and the militarization of borders after finishing LAND OF THE CRANES.
There are some scenes that are rather harrowing, so depending upon individual maturity level, CRANES is probably most appropriate for junior high and up. This book will definitely spark some good conversations and may create some young human rights campaigners in the process!
Wowza. This short book written in verse packs a punch. It tells the story of Betita, an undocumented girl, and her mother as they get detained at the border of the US and Mexico. Her story is so, so hard, but it’s not without hope.
*3.5 This was book was so heartbreaking and sad. Betita is such a sweet and kind girl. I usually am just meh with verse novels but this one was so sweet! The family went through some pretty realistic things and I like how it showed that in a children's book! I recommend : )!
This was such a beautiful though-provoking book! I loved the in verse format. I love when a book can really challenge and even change your view point on your beliefs and this one did that for me. I know this is a book written for a middle grade audience, but man did it soften this adult's heart.
"Look around. You think this is justice? You think this is humane? ... You think we deserve to be in a concentration camp for seeking asylum? You have NO idea what most of us are running from. Most of us had no choice by to try to find a better life." (p. 194)
Wow. This is a short but poignant novel-in-verse that I hope all young people get their hands on to learn about young Betita and her pregnant mother's experiences being detained by ICE. Perfect timing to read for everyone, really, as the presidential election is now less than two weeks away, and this book speaks to the dangers of re-electing the current monster-in-office.
In a letter to readers at the end, the author (Aida Salazar) talks about the purpose of migration--of animals and humans--that "they migrate to survive changes to their environment and for their well-being. It is humans who have drawn the lines in the sand, erected walls and borders around their territories, and deemed people 'illegal' when they cross those walls and borders." She proceeds to talk about the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy, how children have been kept in cages and treated inhumanely. And she ends by saying, "While these injustices may seem impossible to challenge, this crisis requires we break open our humanity to try to find positive solutions. Our solutions must be steeped in respect for migrants and for their heartbreaking circumstances, and those solutions cannot be achieved by building more walls nor by acting with cruelty. I believe in our collective loving spirit, and this book, this long picture poem, is my offering de esperanza."
Coincidentally, about an hour after finishing this book, I received a NY Times Breaking News alert in my inbox that read: "The parents of 545 migrant children separated at the border by the Trump administration still haven't been found, court documents show."
The audiobook was great, but the physical book is also perfect in its easy-to-follow formatting and also includes some illustrations throughout.
Here are some (more) passages pulled from the book:
"Six raids in the last two days," Papi chews. "Where?" "In the factories just over the tracks. People say there will be more. This administration is out to get us." "But this is a sanctuary state." "A what, Mami?" Papi clears his throat and almost whispers, "A 'sanctuary' is a place where cranes can't get caught" Caught for doing what? (p. 20-21)
"When Pepe raises his hand to ask, 'What about learning math today?' Ms. Martinez looks at him with eyes so heavy they looked closed. 'We are learning about one another. About the hurt in our hurts. Sometimes, that is the most important thing to learn.'" (p. 48)
After reading American Dirt earlier in the year, I was recommended to Land of the Cranes a haunting and heartbreaking story of Mexican American migration, American policy on migrants. This is a story told from the point of view of Betita, a highly imaginative Mexican American migrant girl. Her father is taken away by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and deported. Benita and her pregnant mother are also detained in the prison like detention centre. At the centre they meet so many like them and others in worse situations. The story told in Betita's voice and her drawings makes it all the more painful in her innocence and absolute hope of somehow making everything work out eventually. To imagine any human in the inhumane situation of sleeping on concrete, eating mouldy and half frozen food, lack of water and toilet access, being cooped up in a cage with only one hour of outside time. Its agonising to imagine that people are living with this reality right now. I loved this book and I definitely learned a lot from it.
I have to start with books written in prose pose a real problem for me when I'm rating them for a broad audience as not every person likes to read in this particular format. Despite that initial hesitation, I have to say that yes, it is beautiful, despite the horrors described. Yes, it uses imagery to make it more relatable to a child's imagination. You really get a feel for our little leading lady's hardships. You really feel the awful conditions they have to endure, and the strength of their voices when united as one. It really emphasizes how one little spark can ignite change.
**copy received for review; opinions are my own - Read for Cybil's Middle Grade Fiction, Round Two
WOW! What an incredibly important, impactful, and necessary book for young people. This should be required reading in the school system. Breathtaking, horrifying, and incredibly eye-opening. I hope this book inspires young people to challenge the disgusting laws of our country.
A hard read based on the experiences of real migrant children and their families. A work written in verse of sad truths… both beautiful and bittersweet. An important book reminding us of the crisis happening every day, encouraging positive solutions and compassion for heartbreaking circumstances.