9781554988495Somos como las nubes /
We Are Like the Clouds
By Jorge Argueta
Illustrated by Alfonso Ruano
Published by Groundwood Books
Age Range: 7 and older

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“Argueta and Ruano present a unique and much-needed perspective on the reasons driving young people to immigrate to the U.S. … extremely vital.”
Booklist, Starred Review


Why are young people leaving their country to walk to the United States to seek a new, safe home? Over 100,000 such children have left Central America. This book of poetry helps us to understand why and what it is like to be them.

This powerful book by award-winning Salvadoran poet Jorge Argueta describes the terrible process that leads young people to undertake the extreme hardships and risks involved in the journey to what they hope will be a new life of safety and opportunity. A refugee from El Salvador’s war in the eighties, Argueta was born to explain the tragic choice confronting young Central Americans today who are saying goodbye to everything they know because they fear for their lives. This book brings home their situation and will help young people who are living in safety to understand those who are not.

Compelling, timely and eloquent, this book is beautifully illustrated by master artist Alfonso Ruano who also illustrated The Composition, considered one of the 100 Greatest Books for Kids by Scholastic’s Parent and Child Magazine.

Reviews & Accolades
Poems written in Spanish and English poignantly address the struggles of child refugees fleeing Central America for the U.S. Shifting among the viewpoints of several children, the poems recount the sadness of leaving old lives behind and the dangers of the journey: “Don’t let us fall/ into the hands of the migra,/ and never in the hands of the traffickers,” reads a prayer to Santo Toribio, “saint of the immigrants.” Ruano’s lush paintings feature surreal flourishes (a rooster in a track suit, tattooed gang members with cyclopean eyes) as well as haunting images of families crossing deserts and crowding onto trains. A sobering but hopeful collection.
Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

“With tenderness and humanity, this bilingual book describes the hopes, fears, and uncertainties of the thousands of displaced children that arrive every year at the southern border of the United States. Every year thousands of children from El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico leave their home countries and undertake a perilous journey across hundreds of miles in the hope of reaching the United States. They are fleeing crushing poverty and the fear of violence. Some are fleeing with their families, some are hoping to be reunited with a parent or relative in the U.S., and some are leaving parents and siblings behind. How to portray such a hard and harsh reality? Employing free verse, Argueta manages to evoke moments and feelings, softening the rough edges while remaining true to his subject. In poems that follow the harrowing journey, readers keep pace with the children who narrate. They describe their hometowns, the dangers of life in gang-dominated areas, their decisions to leave, border crossings and indecision over whether to turn back or go on, the inhospitable landscapes they traverse only to be met in the end by the border patrol, and, finally, safety in their mothers’ arms. Ruano’s realistic artwork conveys an immediacy that complements and extends the poems, allowing readers not familiar with the experience to be able to “see” it. Poignant, heartbreaking, and, sadly, timely.
Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

“Argueta likens the spirit of refugee and immigrant children from Central America and Mexico to the movement of clouds in this collection of bilingual poetry. Some of these poems successfully evoke the fear and anxiety generated by this exodus from violence and privation. The portrayal of the tattooed Salvadoran gangs in “El barrio la campanera” is particularly visceral. But most of the poems skirt the edge of urgency, creating an emotional disconnect. Apprehension by the U.S. border patrol is a dreaded terror refugees pray to avoid. But the poem “Nos presentamos a la patrulla” (“We Introduce Ourselves to the Border Patrol”) couches the nightmare in terms of an innocuous meet-and-greet. In an introductory poem, “Mi barrio,” the author describes a rooster eating a Popsicle (“paleta”), but Ruano features the rooster with a lollipop—the alternate definition of the word. This misinterpretation disrupts the cyclical nature of the Popsicle motif carried forth into the concluding poem. Furthermore, the brutal march across the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts claims countless lives every year, but the image depicted implies that the crossing is nothing more onerous than a day hike. VERDICT Despite flaws, this is a much-needed jumping-off point for elementary classroom discussions of refugees and immigration.
School Library Journal

Groups Represented
Central American

Theme: #OwnVoices
Theme: Family Separation
Theme: Fleeing Persecution
Theme: Immigration
Theme: Undocumented Immigration

Central America
United States

Engagement Projects & Resources
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