To The Other Side by Erika Meza

The Blurb On The Back:

A young boy and his older sister have left home to play a game.  To win, she tells him, they need to travel across endless lands together and make it to the finish line.

He can be brave like a tiger.  She’ll be fast like a rabbit.

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

A powerful, timely and beautifully illustrated story exploring the journey of two young refugee children in search of safety.

TO THE OTHER SIDE was released in the United Kingdom on 14th March 2023.  Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

You can order TO THE OTHER SIDE by Erika Meza from Amazon UK, Waterstone’s or UK.  I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

A boy and his sister are playing a game.  They are going on a journey and the rules are simple: avoid the monsters, keep moving and don’t get caught.  The game is won when they cross the line.  The boy must be brave like a tiger and the girl will be fast like a rabbit.  They keep going, thinking about what they will win when they get there but there are others who are also playing the game and the monsters want to stop them all.  Somehow the brother and sister must keep going if they are to reach the other side …

Erika Meza’s self-illustrated picture book is a clever, subtle and gorgeously drawn look at the plight of children crossing the US border.  The relationship between brother and sister is central to the story and beautifully done and Meza is smart in her use of colour is fabulous.  This is a book for adults to read with younger readers as each will get something from it and Meza stresses how the struggle does not finish when the journey ends.

Meza’s use of colour in this book is absolutely fantastic.  I love how she picks out the animal masks worn by all who seek to travel the border in shades of yellow, pink, purple and orange but the bulk of the rest of the illustrations are in drab greys while the monsters seeking to stop them are all jagged black and dark grey shapes.

The story itself is powerful and moving as you see what the boy and girl have to endure as they head to the border and again, the way that Meza brings in dashes of colour to pick out bits in the scenery is very effective.  I particularly liked the fact that even once they reach the border, the danger is not over as Meza emphasises the waiting and the questions and how there are still monsters waiting for them on the other side.

Younger readers will enjoy this as a simple story of a girl and boy on a journey but adults reading along with them can explain how this relates to immigration and what immigrants go through in order to reach their destination.  Although the story comes across as US-centric, I think the experience is global enough for it to work well wherever you are based.

All in all I found this to be a rich, smart and emotional read and will definitely check out Meza’s other work on the strength of it.  

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