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Children's Fiction Emigration & Immigration


by (author) Maxine Trottier

illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

Groundwood Books Ltd
Initial publish date
Mar 2011
Emigration & Immigration, General, Mexico
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2011
    List Price

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 4 to 7
  • Grade: p to 2
  • Reading age: 4 to 7


A New York Times Book Review choice as one of the 10 Best Illustrated Children's Books of 2011, an Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Award Honour Book, and finalist for the Governor General's Award: Children's Illustration and Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children’s Book Awards: Picture Book

Each spring Anna leaves her home in Mexico and travels north with her family where they will work on farms. Sometimes she feels like a bird, flying north in the spring and south in the fall. Sometimes she feels like a jack rabbit living in an abandoned burrow, as her family moves into an empty house near the fields. But most of all she wonders what it would be like to stay in one place.

The Low German-speaking Mennonites from Mexico are a unique group of migrants who moved from Canada to Mexico in the 1920s and became an important part of the farming community there. But it has become increasingly difficult for them to earn a livelihood, and so they come back to Canada each year as migrant workers in order to survive. And while they currently have the right to work in Canada, that right may be challenged. Working conditions are difficult for all migrant workers, most of whom have to leave families far behind. And yet countries like Canada and the United States benefit greatly from their labor.

Beautifully written by Maxine Trottier and imaginatively illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault, this book describes what it is like to be a child in a migrant family.

Correlates to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts:

With prompting and support, ask and answer questions about key details in a text.

Describe characters, settings, and major events in a story, using key details.

Use information gained from the illustrations and words in a print or digital text to demonstrate understanding of its characters, setting, or plot.

About the authors

Maxine Trottier is a prolific writer of books for young people. Born in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan on May 3, 1950, she moved to Windsor, Ontario in Canada with her family ten years later. In 1974 she became a Canadian citizen. She is a graduate of the University of Western Ontario.Maxine spent 31 years working as an educator in elementary classrooms, guiding children toward literacy. The students in her class, who of course thought of her only as their teacher, saw each step in the creation of a new work. They heard the unillustrated story, saw the roughs, and were the first to view the finished book.Maxine lives with her husband William and their two Yorkies, Ceilidh and Moon. They divide their year between Port Stanley, Ontario on Lake Erie, and Newman s Cove, Newfoundland, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Both are wonderful places to write.

Maxine Trottier's profile page

Isabelle Arsenault is a very talented Quebec illustrator who has won an impressive number of awards and has achieved international recognition. She has illustrated Migrant by Maxine Trottier, a New York Times Best Illustrated Book and a finalist for the Governor General’s Award; Virginia Wolf by Kyo Maclear, winner of the Governor General’s Award; Le coeur de monsieur Gauguin by Marie-Danielle Croteau, winner of the Governor General’s Award; and My Letter to the World and Other Poems by Emily Dickinson, a finalist for the Governor General’s Award. She has also illustrated Once Upon a Northern Night by Jean Pendziwol and Jane, the Fox and Me by Fanny Britt, forthcoming from Groundwood. Isabelle has won the Grand Prix for illustration (Magazines du Québec) for six years running. She lives with her family in Montreal.

Isabelle Arsenault's profile page


  • Winner, Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Illustrator’s Award Honour Book
  • Short-listed, Ruth and Syliva Schwartz Children's Picture Book Award
  • Short-listed, 6th Annual ReadBoston Best Read Aloud Book Award.
  • Commended, ALA Notable Chilren's Books List
  • Commended, 2012 USBBY Outstanding International Book
  • Winner, 2012 Notable Books for a Global Society Book Award
  • Commended, New York Times Best Illustrated
  • Short-listed, Governor General's Award: Illustration

Editorial Reviews


Canadian Children's Book News

Separating this work from other children's books about migration and work is the focus on Mexico's Mennonite community and the issues faced by some of its members in Canada and Mexico.

Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children

Lyrical metaphors comparing Anna to various animals reveal her connection to nature, her vivid imagination, and her heartfelt desire to feel more settled.

Language Arts

Migrant does a rare thing in children’s books of this type: it teaches without being pedantic

32 Pages

...a wonderful addition to any book collection...

CM Magazine

New York Times Top 10 Book of the year, 2011.

The New York Times Book Review

The words and images could stand alone as feats of artistic excellence. Together, they form a package that should become a staple for kids learning about Canada’s diverse population.


The illustrations...will grab the attention of those sharing this book.

Sal's Fiction Addiction

Without a heavy message, this sensitive offering captures a small child’s experience of constant upheaval as she flies like a feather in the wind.


...moving, inventive and thoughtful...

Kirkus Reviews

Librarian Reviews


“What would it be like to stay in one place — to have your own bed, to ride your own bicycle? ... Now that would be something.” Meet Anna, the youngest daughter of Low German-speaking Mennonites, migrant workers who travel to Canada from Mexico every spring to earn their livelihood by harvesting fruit and vegetables. Anna describes her annual displacement in terms which she can understand. She compares herself to a bird: “It is the birds, after all, flying north in the spring and south every fall.” Because she resides in a rundown farmhouse with “...the rooms filled with the ghosts of last year’s workers,” she sometimes feels like a jack rabbit inhabiting an abandoned burrow. Though young, Anna knows that she is an outsider. The migrants are stared at when they go to town, and the foreign languages Anna hears around her sound “ though a thousand crickets are all singing a different song.” When fall comes, the workers return to Mexico where they remain until spring, and the cycle begins anew.

Maxine Trottier has written a poignant account of what it is like to be a child in a migrant family. We learn of the workers’ plight through little Anna, who yearns to live in just one place and belong. The eloquent text effectively juxtaposes Anna’s florid imagination with the stark realities facing her family. Included is an illuminating afterword describing the challenging working conditions experienced by the seasonal labourers who, most likely, have harvested much of the food on our tables.

Isabelle Arsenault’s watercolour, gouache, crayon and collage illustrations depict Anna’s reality as well as her imaginary world. The colourful artwork seems to be child-like in execution and perspective. It is almost as if Anna herself had drawn them.

Readers of Migrant might be moved to take some action, appropriate to their young age, towards enhanced equality, or at least talk about what they have learned with others. “Now that would be something.”

Source: The Canadian Children's Bookcentre. Spring 2011. Volume 34 No. 2.


Anna, a child in a migrant family, leaves her home in Mexico each spring and travels north where her parents and older siblings will work on farms, harvesting fruit and vegetables. Sometimes she feels like a bird, flying north in the spring and south in the fall, sometimes she feels like a jackrabbit living in an abandoned burrow, but most of all she wonders what it would be like to stay in one place.

Source: The Canadian Children’s Book Centre. Best Books for Kids & Teens. Fall, 2012.

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Other titles by Isabelle Arsenault

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