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Ten-year-old Enrique is a valued member of his soccer team. When he scores the winning goal, which allows his team to enter a tournament, he’s sure Papa will be excited and sign the permission slip allowing him to go. But Papa refuses because Enrique and his team must pass through a United States government checkpoint to travel to the tournament.

Enrique is furious, insisting that he is a U.S. citizen so Papa doesn’t need to worry. He accuses Papa of being afraid of the border patrol. But Papa insists on his decision, reminding Enrique that Papa, Mama, and his sister, who fled Mexico and live in America without legal documentation, could be sent back across the border and the family could be split up. Still, Enrique refuses to accept Papa’s explanation.  

A while later, he decides to sign Papa’s name to the permission slip. But just as he is on his way to hand it in, his family must flee to his grandmother’s house because of news of an impending round-up of undocumented immigrants. That night Papa tells Enrique the full story of the family’s journey from Mexico to the United States before Enrique was born. Finally, Enrique understands—his father isn’t a coward, but rather a courageous man who brought his family through great physical hardships and danger to secure a better future for them. In a delightful ending, Enrique experiences the love, welcome, and compassion of his soccer team who show their care for their teammate by making a surprising sacrifice. 

This timely children’s picture book deals with a pressing current issue in an age-sensitive way. Author Karen Lynn Williams displays deep compassion and understanding of the challenges and fears of undocumented immigrants and the sacrifices they make to give their loved ones a life free from violence and poverty. Illustrator Sara Palacios’ emotive artwork captures the rollercoaster of emotions experienced by Enrique and his family: fear, anger, frustration, rejection, excitement, joy, and delight. Reading Facing Fear with young children could prove to be a good conversation starter about God’s love for all people and his call for us to love our neighbors, no matter their circumstances. (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers)

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