Mama the Alien/Mama la extraterrestre

Renae Colato Laainez, illus. by Laura Lacamara. Lee & Low/Children's Book Press, $17.95 (32p) ISBN 978-0-89239-298-8
In this bilingual tale, Sofía's mother, a U.S. resident, isn't the extraterrestrial kind of alien; rather, she's from an unspecified Spanish-speaking country and has a residence card that reads "ALIEN" at the top. While Laínez's attempt to make comedy of Sofía's misunderstanding is sometimes overwrought ("I saw Mamá's shadow on the wall. She stretched out her arms.... I found the courage to switch on the light"), the portrayal of a family member on a journey toward U.S. citizenship is a crucial story, especially for readers whose citizenship has never been called into question. Younger readers may not know that non-citizens are referred to as aliens, or that the children of non-citizens wrestle with unexpected questions: "Mamá was an alien. Papá didn't have a card, so he was not an alien. That meant I was half alien," Sofía reasons. By devoting more narrative energy to the idea that Sofía's Mamá comes from outer space, Laínez (¡Vámanos! Let's Go!) keeps the story from turning sanctimonious or didactic. In warmly colored paintings, Lacámara (Dalia's Wondrous Hair/El cabello maravilloso de Dalia) matches stylized, folk art–style humans with droll alien figures that feature a variety of arms, legs, antennae, and tentacles. Ages 6–9. (May)
Reviewed on: 05/02/2016
Release date: 05/01/2016
Genre: Children's
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