Areli Morales is 6 years old when she leaves her native Mexico to join her parents and her brother, Alex, in New York City. Areli is happy and sad at the same time: happy, because she has been reunited with her family; sad, because she misses Abuela—her grandmother—her cousins, the mountains, and the chickens. And she doesn’t feel at home in the city because it’s so different from the quiet, slower-paced life she was used to.
When Areli begins school, her troubles multiply as she struggles to speak English, and as her peers bully her by calling her “illegal” and mock her because her mother works as a maid in one of their homes.
Areli is confused. What does it mean that she is “illegal”? When she asks her mom, Areli learns that she is not a citizen of the United States. Alex tells her something even more disturbing—if she is discovered, she could be sent back to Mexico without her family. Though Areli doesn’t understand the implications of what she has learned, she does know that she must keep quiet about her home in Mexico. As she matures, Areli grows to love her new country and to believe Abuela’s words that she could have a brighter future in the United States than she could have had in Mexico.
Based on the true story of Areli Morales, a Mexican citizen by birth and raised in the United States, this poignant children’s picture book offers young readers a glimpse into the experiences of children who are undocumented immigrants. In author notes, Areli Morales explains the life-changing impact of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program on her life. However, she offers a somber reminder: “Despite the positive outcomes for many young people, the program is constantly being threatened, which places DACA recipients and their families in danger. Although many have tried to terminate the program, the fight for its survival and for permanent and inclusive immigration relief continues.”
Christian parents, teachers, and caregivers who share Areli is a Dreamer with young children have an excellent opportunity to focus on what Jesus taught us about loving and welcoming the stranger. (Random House Studio)