cover image Frontera


Julio Anta, illus. by Jacoby Salcedo. HarperAlley, $26.99 (240p) ISBN 978-0-063-05495-0

A Mexican teenager must rely on a new ghost friend to cross the Sonoran Desert in this poignant graphic novel by Anta (Home) and debut creator Salcedo. Mateo has just left Guadalajara to cross the Mexico-U.S. border to Phoenix. Though his parents hired a coyote to smuggle him across, impatient Mateo goes alone, and is pursued by border patrol—then saved by Guillermo, a ghost in a cowboy hat. Via flashbacks in which the ghost guides Mateo’s spirit through his own memories, Guillermo reveals that he died while crossing the desert 70 years prior. Unable to move on, his soul now wanders the landscape, protecting migrants from the police. With help from Guillermo and a Tohono O’odham woman, Mateo combats heat exhaustion, dodges militia men, and resolves to help Guillermo cross over to the afterlife. By juxtaposing Mateo’s present treacherous situation with harrowing scenes from Guillermo’s and other migrants’ pasts, Anta pulls no punches, organically weaving together myriad contemporary border issues. Salcedo’s richly colored backdrops and expressive characters make the desert and its inhabitants come alive in an adventure steeped in magical realism that artfully conveys a small sampling of migrant stories. Ages 13–up. (July)