To the Other Side

by Erika Meza (Author) Erika Meza (Illustrator)

To the Other Side
Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

Author-illustrator Erika Meza delivers a stunning and emotionally rich book from the viewpoint of those most impacted by border walls: young refugee children. This powerfully told tale highlights the spirit and strength of those embarking on a dangerous trek, and what awaits them on the other side.

My sister tells me the rules of the game are simple.
Avoid the monsters. Don't get caught. And keep moving.
If the monsters catch you, you're out.

A young boy and his older sister have left home to play a game. To win, they must travel across endless lands together and make it to the finish line. Each child imagines what might be waiting for them across the border: A spotted dog? Ice cream! Or maybe a new school.

But the journey is difficult, and the monsters are realer than they imagined. And when it no longer feels like a game, the two children must still find a way to forge ahead.

Select format:

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review
The story is ultimately hopeful, gently providing probing insight into the lives of the youngest migrants. A gorgeously rendered, heartbreaking look at one family's immigration experience.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review

This powerful solo work by Meza (Mariana and Her Familia) follows two unaccompanied, Latinx-cued children heading for the U.S.-Mexico border. As they start out, an older sister explains to the child narrator that "the rules of the game are simple": if they avoid monsters, evade capture, and keep moving, she says, they'll win "when we cross the line." Wearing colorfully rendered masks to "hide us. Make us fast. Make us brave," the siblings leave their home, portrayed in the ink-gray of the book's landscapes, to set out along a blossoming path bright with blooms. Soon, however, skeletal shadow-creatures threaten, as the children cross rivers and ride atop train boxcars. Dispirited ("this game was too long. Too tiring. Too hard"), the narrator at last realizes the reality of the situation, and perseveres as the duo approach, and cross, the border into a new set of experiences. Accompanying simple language that foregrounds a child's observations amid heightened danger are gouache, marker, and digital illustrations that layer pink, purple, and orange flowers and masks against ink-black bleeds and a repeating barred motif that represents myriad threats. It's a realistic but hopeful look at two children's emigration. An author's note concludes. Ages 4-8. Agent: Claire Cartey, Holroyde Cartey. (Mar.)

Copyright 2023 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

"More relevant than ever, this perceptive and exquisitely illustrated picture book will leave its readers questioning the complex reality of child migration." — Flavia Z. Drago, author-illustrator

"With moving text and vibrant, kinetic images, Erika Meza celebrates in To the Other Side the tenacity, imagination, and resilience of children traveling northward in search of freedom and safety. Scenes of ludic solidarity with other kids and adults are balanced by darker, solitary hints of the dangers these young refugees face. Erika lovingly crafts colorful masks for everyone, reflections of the asylum-seekers' Indigenous heritage, a rooted identity that gives them strength even in the most difficult moments. A stunning, important book that will move hearts and minds." — David Bowles, author of My Two Border Towns and Ancient Night

There are many books about identity and belonging, but none have impacted me as much as To The Other Side. This is a powerful and moving story about a brother and sister, the love that binds them and protects them, and the power of children to see light and magic even in the most harrowing circumstances. The lyrical text and beautiful illustrations transported me. But even when the journey is over, their story continues. I'm honored that To The Other Side is now a part of me, too. — Yamile Saied Méndez, award winning author of Where Are You From?

Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Katherine Tegen Books
Publication date
March 14, 2023
BISAC categories
JUV051000 - Juvenile Fiction | Imagination & Play
JUV039250 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Emigration & Immigration
JUV013070 - Juvenile Fiction | Family | Siblings
JUV030100 - Juvenile Fiction | People & Places | Mexico
JUV068000 - Juvenile Fiction | Travel
Library of Congress categories
Picture books
United States
Voyages and travels
Emigration and immigration

Subscribe to our delicious e-newsletter!