Dora the Explorer never took a trip like this.
A new children’s book tells the story of a cartoon character named Pancho Rabbit, who illegally crosses the U.S. border from Mexico in search of his father. Along the way, Pancho sneaks a ride on top of a train, swims across a raging river, crawls through a tunnel under the border and is cheated by Senor Coyote, a red-eyed, red-scarved character he meets along the way.
The author, 28-year-old Duncan Tonatiuh, says he isn’t following the current immigration bill in Washington and didn’t write the book as a political statement. Tonatiuh, whose previous children’s book on Mexican painter Diego Rivera earned an award from the American Library Association, says he just wanted to give young illegal immigrants living in the United States a bedside story they can relate to.
“I wanted them to see that people that go into the U.S. like this face an incredibly dangerous journey,” says Tonatiuh, who was born and raised in Mexico and has dual U.S.-Mexican citizenship. “But I also wanted to show the longing between families, the fact that there are a lot of children in Mexico who don’t see their fathers for years.”
The book, called “Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale” (Abrams, $16.95), starts with Pancho’s father leaving for the U.S. to work in the “great carrot and lettuce fields” with his friends, Senor Rooster and Senor Ram. When they don’t return as planned two years later, Pancho Rabbit scampers off to find him.
He soon finds the sneaky coyote — a real-life term used to describe smugglers who sneak people across the border — who helps guide Pancho north in exchange for some of his food. Senor Coyote helps Pancho jump onto a passing railroad car — a method used by many immigrants throughout Central America. He helps Pancho swim across a fast-moving river similar to the Rio Grande in Texas. And then the coyote leads him into a tunnel to cross the border — a common method used by immigrants and drug smugglers.
After crossing a barren desert in the U.S., they find shelter in a small house, where Senor Coyote turns on Pancho and tries to eat him. But the young rabbit is saved when his father suddenly appears with his friends.
Gannett News Service