Everyone has a story.
That’s something children’s book author and retired architect, Debbie Mills, has known all her life. She, her husband, Peter, and the couple’s eight grown children also believe in the strong bond of family is everything and that belief is evident in this tight-knit family. After moving to Kerrville, Texas in 2007, Debbie was fortunate to get to know a Mexican stonemason and was introduced to a moving story of courage, perseverance, and familial love that was begging to be shared with the world.
“We chose to settle down in Kerrville because it reminded us of Australia,” Debbie recalled. “My husband was in international banking so we lived all over the world. When we retired and chose to do so in Texas, I had the privilege of getting to know Alfredo Alva and his family. Alfredo was a stonemason by trade and over the course of a year, we became friends. One night, as we joined his family for a BBQ, I asked Alfredo to share his story of how he migrated from Mexico and settled in America. The story he told me became the inspiration for the book La Frontera: El viaje con papá/ My Journey With Papa.”
What Makes La Frontera Special
La Frontera: El viaje con papá/ My Journey With Papa is a bilingual book based on the true story inspired by the immigration experience of Alfredo and his father’s as they made the arduous journey from Mexico to the United States’ border– la frontera— to make a home for themselves in a new land in the 1980s. It’s a vibrant and moving story about immigration, resilience, empathy, and belonging. It’s also a story that is still happening today, even 30 years later.
In Praise of La Frontera: El Viaje Con Papa
La Frontera was recently named to the Bank Street College of Educations 2019 Edition of The Best Children’s Books of the 2018 Year.
Starred and favorable reviews have been received from these periodicals: Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, Junior Library Guild.
View the full list of reviews and praise here.
“Very kid-friendly, but also informative, and could help children (and adults) who are unfamiliar with the struggles immigrants experience to better understand what these families endure just to get here. Thank you for taking the time to speak to the issue of immigration with our young people” — Emily Golightly, ESL Teacher, President of the Crystal Coast Reading Council
“The riveting yet calmly told story, movingly illustrated, of a father and son who leave Mexico to find a better life.”
“Memories of migration matter. Telling these stories seems more important than ever — even, and some might say especially, to children. . . [Alfredo Alva] tells of a difficult and frightening trip with his father, one that includes hunger, thirst, exhaustion, and fear of discovery. Told in side-by-side Spanish and English text, Alva’s story is brought to life by Claudia Navarro’s vivid acrylic, graphite, and digital collages and given broader context with several pages of information on borders and immigration after the main story.”
— The New York Times
“Alfredo’s story is an inspiration, told in alternating English and Spanish with photographs of the Alvas, colorful artwork, maps, and thoughtful information on borders, immigration laws, and the importance of tradition and culture”
— Foreword Reviews
“Presented in both Spanish and English, the retrospective narrative overflows with grueling, poignant details about the journey Alfredo and his father undertook. Yet Navarro’s mixed-media artwork succeeds in emphasizing the more-hopeful aspects of Alva’s story, namely love and strength in a familial context. . . . A timely, necessary read”
— Kirkus Reviews
“Precise details create a deeply moving sense of a young immigrant’s journey, from the drinking water dropped along the tracks by train crews to a new school, where Alfredo always brings a $100 bill in case he’s picked up and returned to the border. With bright, saturated colors and expressive figures, the illustrations echo both the story’s drama and tenderness”
— Publishers Weekly
“This moving story of perseverance is told in both Spanish and English to empower language-learning,” Debbie added. “I wanted this book to be a valuable tool for all teachers, especially ESL and TESOL teachers, so we included four pages of endnotes that unpack facts about Alfredo’s story and other stories like his. This story of migration is part of our American history whether people like it or not. This part of our history needs to be told in a language that helps kids to understand this phenomenon.”
Debbie Mills is a retired architect turned children’s book author who has lived all over the world including England, Greece, France, Canada, and Australia. Upon retirement, Mills moved to Kerrville, Texas where she was immediately confronted with the realities of the immigration crisis while learned of the many stories of those escaping the violence of Mexico to start a new life in America. After befriending a Mexican stonemason named Alfredo Alva, she learned the story of he and his father’s tumultuous journey from Mexico to a better life in America. Alfredo’s story became the inspiration for the award-winning bilingual picture book La Frontera: El viaje con papá/ My Journey With Papa.”
When not enjoying life in her current home of Kerrville Texas with husband, Peter, Mills keeps busy with design projects, the couple’s 5 adult children, and working on the production of her invention with a marine supply company.
To contact Debbie with questions or to schedule a classroom visit, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.