Mariana Llanos’ timely bilingual picture book Luca’s Bridge/ El puente de Luca tells the story of a boy named Luca and his family as they move from the US, where his parents are undocumented, to Mexico, where they are citizens, so the family can remain together.
The story is told in the third-person from Luca’s point-of-view as he leaves the only home he has ever known for a country whose language he doesn’t speak. The book captures the generational divide that often separates citizens from non-citizens in homes throughout the US as well as the effects of unreasonable immigration policies on families and children.
Llano’s language is deliberate and sets the tone of the text with sparse but weighty words like “slow,” “heavy,” “quiet,” “broke,” and “silence.” Anna López Real’s illustrations are equally evocative of the somber mood and reflective nature of the story. She captures facial expressions beautifully and her illustrations of settings heighten the mood.
Although there is an inevitable melancholy to the story, there is also a quiet hope. The subtle promise of love and security remains tethered to family togetherness. Even more, both author and illustrator throw in whimsy. Pain is not relentless, Luca and his family have each other and the family they are united with in Mexico.
Along with family, Luca has his dreams, his memories, and his music. These passions are promises that home is a place he can get back to or, perhaps, take with him.
This is a lovely story and belongs in classroom libraries throughout the US to help students gain empathy and understanding or have a space for personal reflection. Like many Penny Candy Books, this tells a socially relevant story without compromising artistry. Perfection!