BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

Manuelito by Elisa Amado, illustrated by Abraham Urias [in Booklist]

Guatemalan-born Canadian author Elisa Amado (What Are You Doing? 2011) “has known many people whose lives have been disrupted, if not destroyed, by the conflicts that have occurred [in Guatemala] since the 1950s,” her author’s bio reveals. That violence continues in the Northern Triangle of Central America – Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras – from which 200,000-plus unaccompanied children have fled.

Thirteen-year-old Manuelito is one of them; his parents hope to save him from the armed militia, gangs, and soldiers controlling their small village. Manuelito and best friend Coco Loco are sent with a coyote – a human trafficker – to cross into Mexico, but the coyote betrays them both. Through the kindness of similarly on-the-run strangers, Manuelito enters the U.S. to join his aunt in New York. Safety, alas, is short-lived.

Illustrator Urias – Salvadoran-born, now U.S.-based – captures Manuelito’s journey in raw black-and-white sketches, mirroring the dangerous urgency with quick, broad strokes. He directs detailed attention to close-ups of faces, drawing focus toward the individual humanity of desperate refugees. Their situations prove dire, and neither author nor artist holds back in presenting the life-and-death scenarios unrelentingly happening now.

Review: “Books for Youth: Graphic Novels,” Booklist, June 1, 2019

Readers: Children, Middle Grade, Young Adult

Published: 2019


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