Saturday, May 03, 2008


[This review may not be published elsewhere without written permission of its author, Beverly Slapin.]

Argueta, Jorge (Nahua/Pipil), Alfredito Flies Home, illustrated by Luis Garay. Groundwood, 2007, grades 4-up.

Alfredito and his grandma and parents are preparing to go home to El Salvador for Christmas—the first time they’ve returned since they fled as refugees and made their way to California on foot. This will be the first plane ride for them, and anticipation has little worms crawling in Alfredito’s stomach. The excitement of the plane ride; the joyful reunion with his sister and his aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, and new puppies; the trip to the cemetery to visit with the grandparents; and the Christmas celebration—too soon it is over and Alfredito must fly home again, to California.

Some young readers will be familiar with what it means to be so desperate to have to go with “any Señor Coyote, or run through the mountains, or hide in the trunks of cars” in order to get to el norte, where there may be the possibility of employment, the possibility of sending money home to relatives. These young readers know, as does Alfredito, that not everyone, for many reasons, gets to go back home.

The cover painting shows Alfredito in his back yard pretending to be an airplane, while a real plane flies overhead. On the ground are the universal symbols of north and south—a football and a soccer ball—and both belong to him. Garay’s amazing acrylic-on-canvas paintings, on a lush and varied palette, perfectly complement this warm story of the loving reunion of a boy and his large extended family. Alfredito Flies Home brings to mind the wisdom, “¡Ningún ser humano es ilegal!” (To be human is never illegal).—Beverly Slapin

[Note: Alfredito Flies Home is available from Oyate.]