Migrants is a vital and powerful wordless picture book of courage, loss and hope — the definitive story of what it takes to migrate to a new land.
The migrants must leave the forest. Borders are crossed, sacrifices made, loved ones are lost. It takes such courage to reach the end. At last the journey is over and the migrants arrive. This is the new place.
Watanabe takes extraordinary care to show the individuality and humanity of each migrant — through the detailed patterns on their clothing, their care of each other as they set up camp, the symbol of the blue ibis showing the connection between past and future, life and death.
With forceful simplicity, Migrants shows us the courage migration takes. Death looms throughout the journey. And arriving may mean burying a portion of the past.
Hardcover, 40 pages. 9 x 9 inches.
Kirkus Best Children's Books — 2020 — Winner
USBBY Outstanding International Books List — 2021 — Winner
"Bear witness to a long, arduous journey across forests and seas for those searching for renewed hope.
The travelers—a group of anthropomorphic animals carrying just the clothes on their backs and what little else possible—stand out against the black background. There's the unyielding deep green of the ground and the stark trees that line the path ahead. But wait, here comes Death with lively flowers pressed upon its black robe and a giant blue ibis at its side. Together the travelers set off, sharing food and company and camping when fatigue sets in. Once at the coast, everyone climbs aboard the boat, a modest wooden scrap against the turbulent sea. The sea proves itself cruel, obliterating the travelers' vessel, and those that can swim to shore do so. Not everyone makes it. More fall behind the further the journey goes on, and all along, Death lingers nearby, accompanied by its ibis. It’s a lengthy march disrupted with loss and grief until the migrants finally arrive at a landscape of blossoming shrubbery. Originally released in Mexico and imported via New Zealand, Peruvian creator Watanabe's depiction of migration and its often harrowing trials shares no words but plenty of images that ask readers to consider. It's a rare feat: a wordless picture book in which the absence of text intensifies the stories it tells. With its stark dearth of color, seen only where necessary, and evocative imagery, the artist's pictures make the migrant's journey—distinct yet everyday—feel palpable. (This book was reviewed digitally with 9-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 96.4% of actual size). A raw, startling portrait of migration." — starred, Kirkus Reviews
A "group of despondent anthropomorphic animals, carrying little in the way of possessions, treks across land and see in this wordless story from Peruvian author-illustrator Watanabe. Following the party is a skeletal creature, assumed to be Death, accompanied by a tall blue ibis and wearing a long black cloak adorned with flowers. The group stops briefly to eat and rest, eventually arriving at the ocean. In attempting to cross the water on rough waves, the animals lose their boat. When on land again, they say goodbye to a member of their party to who doesn't survive; this change in pace—the pause in weary walking to mourn the loss—is filled with tenderness, the bereaved creatures gathering dejectedly around their beloved friend. Afterward, Death stops to comfort the deceased creature while the party reluctantly moves on. The severe, distinctive palette includes a pitch-black background on each spread and a thin, green strip of grace, as if a stage the animals walk across. Their clothing provides vivid pops of color, along with rose-colored blooms on the trees they pass, which, at book's close, represent a sign of hope. This powerful portrait—stark, eloquent, and utterly devoid of sentimentality—depicts the arduous, dangerous journeys of migrants all across the globe. It's a small book that tells a big story of loss and courage."—The Horn Book Magazine
"Peruvian artist Watanabe creates a story about a group of animal migrants who trudge through a dark forest, carrying their belongings in bundles. A fox, several rabbits, an alligator, a mandrill, an elephant, and more make the trip upright, wearing street clothes. They're trailed by Death, a slight, almost apologetic figure with a skull for a head and wearing a magnificent flowered robe. The animals move through a forest of silvery, leafless trees toward the ocean, where a boat awaits, and crowd into it. Death follows, flying on a blue ibis. The waves tear the boat apart; when the animals gain the far shore, they realize that one of their number has died, and they gather around the body. When they arrive at last in a place where the trees bear green leaves and flowers, there's no rejoicing, just puzzled exhaustion. Context-setting will be needed for children unfamiliar with the plight of present-day migrants, but Watanabe captures with grace both dignity and determination, and the brilliance of her art’s hues against a velvety black backdrop gives the somber spreads great visual power." — Publishers Weekly
"Issa Watanabe invites readers to accompany a group of Migrants (Gecko, Oct. 6) as the anthropomorphic animals wordlessly make their way by foot and by boat. Death accompanies them too, literally, and readers see the group shrinking in number as it navigates peril and privation. It’s beautiful and harrowing, challenging readers to think." — Kirkus Reviews
About the Author & Illustrator:
Issa Watanabe was born in Peru, the daughter of an illustrator and a poet. She studied Literature, Fine Arts, and Illustration. She has led projects promoting social integration through art and published many books.