Land of the Cranes by Aida Salazar. Scholastic, 2020. 9781338343809
Format: ARC (9/20 pub date)
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5
Genre: Realistic fiction
What did you like about the book? This novel in verse is a stunning portrayal of the treatment of detainees at the U.S. southern border, especially children. Betita and her parents seek to migrate to the U.S. after dangerous gangs threaten violence if extortion money is not paid. Fearing for their lives, they head north, but Betita and her mother are apprehended at the border and thrust into a detention facility. Cruelty, neglect and abuse become a daily occurrence as the guards at the for-profit center demean them, subjecting them to inhumane treatment worse than prisons. Betita survives by writing her fears and creating stories to tell the other children, using the folklore she remembers from her father, who is incarcerated separately. In her stories, she calls the migrants “cranes” who are returning to their ancient land of Aztlán, and this becomes a theme in this haunting story of present day horrors. Such a contrast between the beautiful poetic language and the cruelty Betita experiences and bears witness to. It really shines a light on the treatment of unaccompanied children especially, as the family sees children taking care of children and babies, with no one to care for them. The author herself was raised in an immigrant community in California, having crossed the border from Mexico. At times it was hard to read, but if these children and their families are experiencing this terrible treatment, and adults in power have not stopped it, then we need our children to bear witness so they can try to do a better job than us.
Anything you didn’t like about it? No
To whom would you recommend this book? Like another recent title, Santiago’s Road Home by Alexandra Diaz, this shows the true human cost of incarcerating families and children at the border, and is appropriate for ages 9-12.
Who should buy this book? Elementary middle school and public libraries
Where would you shelve it ? Fiction
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Stephanie Tournas, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA
Date of review: July 24, 2020