Book Reviews

Book Review: La Frontera: My Journey with Papa

La Frontera: My Journey with Papa

AUTHORS: Deborah Mills & Alfredo Alva

ILLUSTRATOR: Claudia Navarro

PUBLISHER: Barefoot Books


EXCERPT: Based on a true story! Join a young boy and his father on an arduous journey from Mexico to the United States in the 1980s to find a new life. They’ll need all the courage they can muster to safely cross the border — la frontera — and to make a home for themselves in a new land.

JACKET COPY: “Abuelo told Papa he must find a new home. ‘You must leave La Ceja and find a place where work will be plentiful and your family will flourish. Take Alfredo with you, as he is your first-born and will help you on this journey.’”


Claudia Navarro’s illustrations bring this bilingual book, based on a true immigration story, to life. The marriage of art and kid-relatable text, by Deborah Mills and Alfredo Alva, draws the reader in from the first page to the last.

When I read La Frontera with my kids (ages 6 and 10) they wanted to spend extra time taking in each spread. They asked several questions and were able to emphasize with the characters. My son expressed how heartbreaking it would feel to be away from one’s family. My daughter expressed how difficult it would be to learn a new language and make new friends.

I also feel La Frontera is a great book to open a discussion about privilege. My son shared how scary it would be to cross a river and sleep outside with fire ants, scorpions, and snakes. He was also outraged to learn that Alfredo could have been picked up by “someone in a uniform” and taken back to the border without his father.

“I feel so bad for them, Mom. We are lucky because we would never have to go through any of that.”

I thought Deborah Mills and Alfredo Alva brilliantly described “coyotes” for young readers. As a writer, I also appreciated story elements that were tied together later in the book. For example, the touching moment Alfredo had with his mother before he and Papa left on their journey. And Alfredo’s friendship with his donkey, Fernando, and the comfort he felt when he met the baby pig after he and Papa arrived at the “Embassy.”

“My only friend was a baby javelina, a wild pig, who wandered in one day. I think she had lost her mother. I felt like I had, too. We were both lonely, and I told her all my thoughts. She reminded me of my donkey Fernando, back home.”

The strength of the human spirit and the importance of tradition and culture are beautifully captured in this book. This illustration tugs at my heartstrings.

Sometimes my kids lose interest when we read back matter. Not in this case. The combination of maps, photographs of Alfredo’s family, and concise yet informative text kept their interest and sparked even more questions.

Our family recently moved to a bigger city. Diversity and activism are more visible for my children, which I embrace and appreciate to my core. I also try very hard to share a wide range of books with my kids. La Frontera is a perfect book to introduce the important topic of immigration to young readers. This timely book can also aid parents and teachers in discussing current events.

Learn more about La Frontera and watch the book trailer on the Barefoot Books website.

OTHER REVIEWS of La Frontera: My Journey with Papa:


School Library Journal


Foreword Reviews


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