Review of Across the Bay

Across the Bay
by Carlos Aponte; illus. by the author
Primary    Penguin Workshop    32 pp.    g
9/19    978-1-5247-8662-5    $17.99 

Aponte explores a young child’s physical and emotional journey coping with his father’s absence from his life and learning to love all that is around him. Carlitos lives with his mother, grandmother, and cat in Cataño, a town just across the bay from Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. Now and then, in the streets or at the barbershop, Carlitos notices that there’s something “different” about his family. From his mother, the young boy learns that his father lives “across the bay.” (“Sometimes things don’t work out.”) Carlitos decides to hop onto the ferry and travel to Old San Juan with a photo of his dad and the hope of finding  him. Through strikingly colorful and vibrant illustrations, Aponte captures the essence of Old San Juan: while Carlitos asks around for his father, readers can see such typical local images as a shaved-ice vendor, a group of cats, old men playing dominoes, the traditional San Sebastián street festival, and people flying kites at El Morro fort. This tale, in which a young boy walks around by himself without anyone knowing, asking, or wondering where his supervising adults are, is based on Aponte’s childhood memories of a particular time and place. A lively and honest story about filling voids and exploring what defines a family — as well as a love letter to a childhood home.

From the January/February 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Sujei Lugo

Sujei Lugo is a former elementary school librarian at the University of Puerto Rico Elementary School and currently works as a children’s librarian at the Boston Public Library, Connolly Branch. She is a doctoral candidate in Library and Information Science at Simmons University, focusing her research on anti-racist children’s librarianship.

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