Mamá the Alien - Reviews

Kirkus Review
A young Latina is convinced her mother is an alien from another planet. While playing basketball, Sofía accidently knocks over Mamá’s purse, spilling out its contents, including a card with Mamá’s name and, in big, blue letters, the word “ALIEN” (or “extraterrestre”). After confirming that the card is indeed real and asking her parents additional questions, Sofía is sure that Mamá is an extraterrestrial—from outer space—and so her vivid imagination and desire to better understand take her to the library to research aliens. She cannot understand, however, why Mamá looks so humanlike. One especially effective double-page spread portrays Mamá’s silhouette, hair in curlers and wearing a robe, the beam of an open fridge door casting an elongated shadow on the kitchen wall. Lacámara’s fine, vibrant acrylic-and-collage illustrations dress the story in wonder and humor between colorful, golden kitchen scenes and deep, opaque extraterrestrial homages. Lacámara’s subtle indicator that Mamá is a Salvadoran immigrant is by way of a thought bubble in which she stands on the map outline of El Salvador. Colato Laínez offers readers the text in both English and Spanish side by side or above and below, neatly laid out with its corresponding illustrations and folding in a primer on the immigration process besides.

A delightful, original, clever, purposeful, multicultural alien tale. (glossary with pronunciation, author’s note) (Bilingual picture book. 6-9)

Do you believe in aliens? What if you found out they were part of your family? Laínez (My Shoes and I, 2010) creates an exceptional story about immigration with a new twist. In this bilingual picture book, Sofia accidentally finds her mamá’s resident alien card and is convinced her mother is from outer space. Sofia begins to wonder if this means that she is an alien, too, and sets out on a journey to figure it out. Through Sofia’s innocence, Laínez provides further insight into the very complicated U.S. naturalization process. This heartfelt and humorous story is perfect for primary-school readers, as well as a useful way for parents or educators to introduce the topic of immigration. An author’s note further explains the meaning of resident alien and will help readers understand the humor behind Sofia’s misunderstanding. Acrylic-and collage illustrations in cheery saturated tones showcase Sofia’s wild imaginings and the story’s joyful conclusion. For a similar tale, consider Amada Irma Perez’s My Diary from Here to There / Mi diario de aqui hasta alla (2002).

Publishers Weekly
In this bilingual tale, Sofía’s mother, a U.S. resident, isn’t the extraterrestrial kind of alien; rather, she’s from an unspecified Spanish-speaking country and has a residence card that reads “ALIEN” at the top. [T]he portrayal of a family member on a journey toward U.S. citizenship is a crucial story, especially for readers whose citizenship has never been called into question. Younger readers may not know that non-citizens are referred to as aliens, or that the children of non-citizens wrestle with unexpected questions: “Mamá was an alien. Papá didn’t have a card, so he was not an alien. That meant I was half alien,” Sofía reasons. By devoting more narrative energy to the idea that Sofía’s Mamá comes from outer space, Laínez keeps the story from turning sanctimonious or didactic. In warmly colored paintings, Lacámara matches stylized, folk art–style humans with droll alien figures that feature a variety of arms, legs, antennae, and tentacles.

School Library Journal
This is a very lighthearted and simple story about residency in the United States, particularly for Hispanics. The plot is playful and typical of a child's interpretation of the situation. . . . [T]he pictures are pleasant-looking, the subject is important to address with young children, and the story makes for very easy reading in both languages.



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