by Thomas King (Author) Natasha Donovan (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 4th – 5th Grade

From celebrated Indigenous author Thomas King and award-winning Métis artist Natasha Donovan comes a powerful graphic novel about a family caught between nations.

Borders is a masterfully told story of a boy and his mother whose road trip is thwarted at the border when they identify their citizenship as Blackfoot. Refusing to identify as either American or Canadian first bars their entry into the US, and then their return into Canada. In the limbo between countries, they find power in their connection to their identity and to each other. Borders explores nationhood from an Indigenous perspective and resonates deeply with themes of identity, justice, and belonging.

A People Magazine Best Book Fall 2021

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Starred Review

King deftly balances tension and absurdity, and in the process, he wryly points to not only the arbitrariness of the border in general but the divisions that it imposes. Subtle and smart, this laconic graphic novel will linger with readers.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review

In this sparsely worded, moving graphic novel adaptation of King's 1993 short story of the same name, the team adeptly captures the dilemma of Native Nations whose homelands were split by political borders. "For the Blackfoot," King (who is of Cherokee/Greek descent) writes in the dedication, "who understand that the border is a figment of someone else's imagination." An unnamed Blackfoot boy from a Canadian reserve recalls his 17-year-old sister, Laetitia's, move to Salt Lake City. Because Laetitia's father is affiliated with Rocky Boy, a Chippewa-Cree tribe in the U.S., Laetitia is free to live in the States. After several years, the boy and his mother drive to visit Laetitia, only to be asked their citizenship at the American border. "Blackfoot," the mother repeats to various guards in the hours they are detained, until they are sent back to Canada--only to face the same tribulations at the Canadian border, thus beginning a days-long loop. Simple pen-and-wash illustrations by Donovan (who is Métis) capture the child's distress as the likelihood of his reunion with Laetitia dwindles. This sobering yet inspiring tale effectively spotlights a Native woman who quietly demands that her voice be heard and her identity recognized. Ages 8-12. (Sept.)

Copyright 2021 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Starred Review

Laetitia, a young Blackfoot woman living north of the Canadian border, moves to Salt Lake City after growing bored with her life, which is filled with tension between her and her mother. After some time has passed, Laetitia's mother and her little brother, who narrates the story, decide to take a road trip to visit, and so must pass through two border checkpoints: one for the United States and one for Canada. At each checkpoint, Laetitia's mother is asked her citizenship, and at each, she claims her Blackfoot nationality. Barred from entering the United States, Laetitia's mother is sent back to the Canadian border and isn't allowed to pass; she and her son find themselves stuck in the space in between, recognized as citizens of nowhere. King (Cherokee) and Donovan (Métis) create a simple yet powerful story of Indigenous endurance at the convergence of identity, culture, survival, history, and modern politics. Although Laetitia is named, her mother and brother are not, signifying the difference in recognition paid to those who readily accept colonial practices and those who do not. White characters are also identified by their given names. Donovan's steadfast style is easily and immediately recognizable. A natural palette of beige, gold, and similar earthy colors is used alongside a variety of blues depicting the daytime sky and the darkness of night. Strong lines and minimal backgrounds keep the focus on the characters' wide-eyed and expressive faces, working well with the character-driven narrative. Characters identify as white Americans or Canadians, and Blackfoot. VERDICT An important and accessible modern tale about the ongoing lack of recognition by colonizers for the Indigenous communities who continue to exist on their ancestral lands.—Alea Perez, Elmhurst P.L., IL

Copyright 2021 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

"...a timely graphic novel about identity"—People Magazine
Thomas King
Thomas King has written several highly acclaimed children's books including A Coyote Solstice Tale (illustrated by Gary Clement) which won the American Indian Library Association Youth Literature Award for Best Picture Book and A Coyote Columbus Story (illustrated by Kent Monkman) which was a Governor General's Award finalist. King, who is of Cherokee and Greek descent and was born in California, was chair of American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota before moving to University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. He recently won a Governor General's Award for his adult novel, The Back of the Turtle; he won both the BC National Award for Canadian Nonfiction and the RBC Taylor Prize for The Inconvenient Indian.

Natasha Donovan is a Métis illustrator with a focus on comics and children's illustration. She has illustrated several award-winning children's books including The Sockeye Mother by Brett Huson and the graphic novel Surviving the City by Tasha Spillett-Sumner. She has a degree in Anthropology from the University of British Columbia, and has worked in academic and magazine publishing. She currently lives in Bellingham, Washington.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication date
September 20, 2021
BISAC categories
JUV039250 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Emigration & Immigration
JUV039120 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Prejudice & Racism
JUV011040 - Juvenile Fiction | People & Places | United States - Native American
JUV030090 - Juvenile Fiction | People & Places | Canada - Native Canadian
JUV068000 - Juvenile Fiction | Travel
JUV008070 - Juvenile Fiction | Comics & Graphic Novels | Fairy Tales, Folklore, Legends & Mythology
Library of Congress categories
Mothers and sons
Graphic novels
Cartoons and comics
Identity (Philosophy)
Canadian-American Border Region
Walter Award
Honor Book 2022
People Magazine Best Book
Selection 2021
Little Maverick Reading List
Selection 2022
ALSC Notable Children's Book
Selection 2022

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