Introducing La Frontera: My Journey with Papa

“So simple, but so beautiful” --Booklist, starred review


La Frontera picture book cover


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. 

AGES 4 – 10  |  32PP  |  8.5 x 10.75 IN
HARDCOVER | 9781782853459 | $17.99 USD
PAPERBACK | 9781782853466 | $9.99 USD


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What makes this book unique


Told from the point of view of a young boy and his father making an arduous journey on foot from Mexico to the U.S. in the 1980s.


Depicts a child adjusting to a new culture, learning a new language and finding a new place to belong. 


Spanish and English used equally throughout, extending this important message across languages, cultures and reading levels to empower both language-learning and bridge-building.


Themes of resilience, perseverance, familial separation, friendship and acceptance abound.


4 pages unpack borders and immigration around the world, as well as show photographs of locations and people depicted in the story.


A Junior Library Guild Selection for the 2018 elementary Spanish category.


About the contributors


Family photo of Alfredo Alva, author of La Frontera

Alfredo Alva was born in La Ceja, Mexico. He came to Kerrville, Texas, with his father when he was eight years old. He is now married with two children and runs a successful masonry business. He wanted to share his story because he sees immigrants facing the same difficulties today that his family faced over thirty years ago. 

Deborah Mills studied architecture and worked in the field while living overseas with her husband and five children. She now divides her time between Kerrville, Texas, and Thousand Islands, New York. When she met Alfredo's family and learned his story, she wanted to write it down and share it. She believes that all children everywhere need to understand this important piece of history.

Claudia Navarro studied at the Escuela Nacional de Artes Plásticas UNAM in Mexico City, and has illustrated for clients around the world. She lives in Mexico City.

What people are saying

Depicts what many must go through when seeking a better life in America” --Booklist, starred review

Depicts what many must go through when seeking a better life in America” --Booklist, starred review

NYT Logo  "Memories of migration matter. Telling these stories seems more important than ever — even, and some might say especially, to children. . . [Alfredo Alva] tells of a difficult and frightening trip with his father, one that includes hunger, thirst, exhaustion and fear of discovery. Told in side-by-side Spanish and English text, Alva’s story is brought to life by Claudia Navarro’s vivid acrylic, graphite and digital collages and given broader context with several pages of information on borders and immigration after the main story."
New York Times

A CL/R SIG Notable Books for a Global Society 2019 Winner!

 "This exquisite book conveys an immigration story of courage and fortitude told from young Alfredo's perspective. Without fanfare, this book illustrates the dangers involved when journeying from Mexico to cross the tumultuous Rio Grande River, and provides an unassailable counterpoint to the current."
Children's Literature & Reading Special Interest Group

Foreword Reviews Logo  We are so excited to announce that La Frontera: El viaje con papá / My Journey with Papa has been named a 2018 Foreword Indies Finalist for Picture Books, Early Reader! We hope this #OwnVoices tale of bravery and belonging will continue to open hearts and minds. 
Booklist Logo 

Booklist Top 10 Diverse Books for Youth 2019 Pick

 "The riveting yet calmly told story, movingly illustrated, of a father and son who leave Mexico to find a better life."

Kirkus Reviews Logo   "Presented in both Spanish and English, the retrospective narrative overflows with grueling, poignant details about the journey Alfredo and his father undertook. Yet Navarro's mixed-media artwork succeeds in emphasizing the more-hopeful aspects of Alva's story, namely love and strength in a familial context. . . . A timely, necessary read"
Kirkus Reviews
Publishers Weekly Logo  "Precise details create a deeply moving sense of a young immigrant’s journey, from the drinking water dropped along the tracks by train crews to a new school, where Alfredo always brings a $100 bill in case he’s picked up and returned to the border. With bright, saturated colors and expressive figures, the illustrations echo both the story’s drama and tenderness"
Publishers Weekly
Beverly Slapin icon 

"[It's] a powerful and compelling narration of a father and his young son’s difficult journey, and it’s also the story of the many thousands who are forced for many different reasons and in many different ways to leave their homes and relocate to the US... For younger readers and listeners—and everyone else—it’s highly recommended."

Beverly Slapin, De Colores Reviews 

Foreword Reviews Logo  "Alfredo’s story is an inspiration, told in alternating English and Spanish with photographs of the Alvas, colorful artwork, maps, and thoughtful information on borders, immigration laws, and the importance of tradition and culture."
Foreword Reviews


NWNY logo  Included on the New Women New Yorkers' summer reading list!
AASL logo  Included on the American Association of School Librarians' list of picture books that humanize immigration
  Panelist Pick in Pima County Public Library’s annual Southwest Books of the Year

Cooperative Children’s Book Center at University of Wisconsin-Madison's CCBC Choices 2019 for Picture Books for School-Age Children

CLCD logo  “This powerful picture book tells how young Alfredo leaves behind the rest of his family and everything he knows, to make his way with his father from central Mexico to Texas, crossing the Rio Grande at night, walking for days and days. Told from Alfredo's point of view, the story recounts his real-life immigration experience with honesty and tenderness. Vibrant illustrations beautifully capture both Alfredo's feelings and his journey. […] Extensive endnotes, also in Spanish and English, tell how Alfredo's family is reunited and become citizens, as well as discuss borders and culture, and immigration. This picture book would be useful for parents, or in a classroom setting, to explore immigration, diversity in communities, or family stories.
—Children's Literature Comprehensive Database
   "Timely and compelling, this is a beautifully illustrated book. It finds the human side of the headlines in a gorgeously rendered and poignantly bilingual story"
Imani Beverly, Education Librarian, Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library

"Love that this book is in both English and Spanish! Can't wait to see it at our local library"
— Oscar O. Palencia, Los Angeles Public Library

   "I was overwhelmed by [Navarro's] illustrations. . . The journey that he and his father made from La Ceja was arduous and fraught with danger, and I was moved by the way the father still managed to bring joy and play into his son's life. I'm a sucker for good back matter, and this book definitely delivers. . . All in all, this is an exceptional book that would be a great addition to any library, especially to those serving Spanish-speaking populations"
— Elisabeth Scott, Reference Librarian / Social Media Coordinator, Mississippi Library Commission
"Very kid-friendly, but also informative, and could help children (and adults) who are unfamiliar with the struggles immigrants experience to better understand what these families endure just to get here. Thank you for taking the time to speak to the issue of immigration with our young people"
— Emily Golightly, ESL Teacher, President of the Crystal Coast Reading Council

"Barefoot Books takes us across the border as an immigrant in this first-hand experience that evokes empathy for the challenges facing so many families in our midst. This book will open up the doors for discussion and compassion"
Jessica Sweedler DeHart, Bookseller, BookPeople of Moscow


"The stories of immigrant experiences are an important part of our history, and this book makes one of these stories accessible to young readers. . . Clearly, this is a story from different times, yet the emotions it raises and the significant questions readers will ask are exceedingly relevant today"
 Myra Zarnowski, Queens College, CUNY, School Library Journal reviewer


"Describes in colorful pictures and vivid narrative what a boy and his father had to overcome on their journey. . . Definitely a good addition to any public library"
 Andrienne Cruz, MLIS, Azusa Public Library, American Library Association Member


"A timely offering that will enhance classrooms. Not just for younger readers!"
 Penny Wise, librarian, Gilmer, TX


"Beautiful illustrations provide a wonderful background for the story of a boy and his father immigrating to a new country. A great story that students will be able to connect with. I loved this book!"
 Katie Russell, Reading Teacher / Specialist, Southern Illinois Reading Council


"I love the colors in the illustrations! They are very eye catching for children. As an adult, the words bring forth emotions, and I can see a teacher using this to discuss family and moving with a class of children"
 Kate O'Sullvian, Geminus Head Start


"A beautifully written story based on a real person and his experiences with relateable feelings and worries. The illustrations are colorful, warm and really enhance the story. Importantly for a story about immigrants from Mexico, the words are in Spanish and English. This is a very important topic, especially in today's world environment."
 Brian Kemp, MSIS, Librarian / Media Specialist, St. Louis Catholic School, Austin, TX


"A timely story that needs to be shared"
 Sherida Weaver, Hillsborough County Schools, Florida


"An entry-point into the conversation about immigration to the United States from Mexico" is how School Library Journal's Classroom Bookshelf blog: "La Frontera and Dreamers" by Mary Ann Cappiello describes La Frontera. Includes teaching ideas for children of all ages!



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