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Contemporary Codex 'Migrant' Teaches Children About Mexican Migration

Laura C. Mallonee - Hyperallergic
go to original
February 18, 2015

Migrant: The Journey of a Mexican Worker by José Manuel Mateo Check it out on

A Mexican boy tells of his journey to the U.S. with his family. They must face many dangers to cross the border, only to experience the uncertainty felt by all illegal immigrants. The narrative is accompanied by one long, beautifully vivid illustration reminiscent of pre-Hispanic codices, packaged as an accordion-style foldout frieze. (Amazon)

A view of ‘Migrant’ (Abrams)

Whether a picture book or a novel, most printed stories are divided into manageable pages and chapters that help us better grapple with their narratives. Real life, on the other hand, is messier — more like watching a never-ending, unedited filmstrip.

Migrant, a bilingual children’s book by José Manuel Mateo and Javier Martínez Pedro, captures that reality. Published by Abrams, it appropriates the vertical, accordion-bound form of a pre-Colombian codex to tell of a Central American family’s freight train journey to the United States. “We rode in a truck to the train tracks and waited there,” the young narrator explains. “When the train appeared, it scared us; it huffed and puffed like an animal.” The language is simple but rhythmic, a guiding companion to Martínez Pedro’s sprawling black-and-white illustration, which stretches from the boy’s rural village through Mexico to the wild, concrete jungle of Los Angeles, where he ends up.

Read the rest at Hyperallergic

Javier Martínez Pedro’s drawing for the book Migrant (Abrams)

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