Review of To the Other Side

To the Other Side To the Other Side
by Erika Meza; illus. by the author
Primary    Tegen/HarperCollins    40 pp.
3/23    9780063073166    $18.99

“‘The rules of the game are simple,’ my sister said. ‘Avoid the monsters. Don’t get caught. And keep moving.’” What sounds like make-believe play is actually quite a dire situation: two young siblings depart their home, joining a group of other masked figures traveling by foot, bus, raft, and train toward a border wall, all the while being tracked by terrifying, spiky, shadowy creatures. Their identities safely concealed behind brightly colored animal masks, the ­children, for a time, are able to lose themselves in pretend play, with their bold face-coverings making them feel “fast like a rabbit” and “brave like a tiger.” But as the trek drags on, reality starts to set in (“This isn’t a game…is it?”). Meza’s memorable mixed-media illustrations include warm, vivid hues; menacing grays; and lots of white space, which can leave the ­eye-catchingly drawn children vulnerable in otherwise spare scenes. They finally reach the border wall, but their journey is still not over; their emotional twists and turns know no borders. Making a friend finally allows for the narrator’s mask to cautiously be lowered. Meza’s appended note describes the inspiration for this story: “Migrants and refugees are often portrayed as either heroes or villains; and yet, the children I was lucky to meet when working on this book were simply that: children [who deserve to] finally feel safe.”

Pubissue-From the May/June 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Elissa Gershowitz

Elissa Gershowitz is editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc. She holds an MA from the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons University and a BA from Oberlin College.

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