This timely parable reads like a timeless folk tale and engages children in thinking about social justice.
Pancho Rabbit’s father leaves his village in Mexico in search of the means to keep his family alive. With Senor Rooster and Senor Ram, he heads off to El Norte to find migrant farming work. When he is due back, his family organizes a big fiesta complete with paper decorations and musicians, and plenty of Papa Rabbit’s favorite foods: rice and beans, mole, tortillas and aguamiel. But Papa Rabbit doesn’t return when expected, and so Pancho Rabbit packs a bag of Papa’s favorite foods and heads out to find him. Along the way, whom should Pancho meet but Coyote, who promises to guide him northward to find his father. Coyote leads Pancho onto a hurtling boxcar, across a dangerous river, and through a long, dark tunnel. For passage through each phase of the journey, Coyote exacts some food for payment. On the last leg of their journey, when none of Papa’s food or drink is left, Coyote threatens to cook Pancho and eat him. Fortunately, Pancho’s cries are heeded; and his savior is his own father. Coyote is kicked off with his tail between his legs, and then Pancho Rabbit leads his father, Senor Rooster and Senor Ram back south. Upon their return to their homeland, a celebration is held complete with Papa Rabbit’s favorite foods: aguamiel, mole, rice and beans, and tortillas.
The unusual artwork of Duncan Tonatiuh is inspired by the art of ancient Mexico and works with the traditional storytelling to create a story that feels like a timeless folk tale, though it is, of course, a timely parable. While the subject matter here is Mexicans migrating to El Norte, it’s not hard to branch out beyond the confines of the story to the plight of migrants in search of a better life for their families all over the world. Duncan Tonatiuh’s book has been widely acclaimed, winning the following awards: