"A tale of triumph that occurs only because a young girl picks up her pencil and writes to people who can help make change.
Saya, a child of Haitian descent, and her father live together in the United States without Mama because the immigration police arrested her one night at work. For the past three months, Mama has been in the Sunshine Correctional facility, a prison for women without immigration papers. Emulating her father, who writes regularly to the media and politicians on his wife’s behalf, Saya writes a letter that is published by the local paper. When the media get involved, phone calls and letters from concerned citizens result in a hearing before an African-American judge, who rules that Mama can go home with her family to await her papers. Visually unifying the story are blue and pink nightingales (a Haitian bird and Saya’s nickname) and hearts with faces and wings or arms and legs. The stories Mama tells help to sustain both Saya and her father through bouts of sadness. Saya’s lifelike stuffed monkey companion seems to perceive what she’s feeling and also helps her to remain strong. Reflecting Danticat’s own childhood, this picture book sheds light on an important reality rarely portrayed in children’s books.
A must-read both for children who live this life of forced separation and those who don’t"
-Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"Brightly colored folk art with a Caribbean flair offsets the sadness of a little girl whose Haitian mother has been sent away to a prison for undocumented immigrants. Every night, Saya’s father writes letters to the judges, their mayor and congresswoman, and newspapers and television stations, but no one ever writes back. During their weekly visits to the detention center, Saya’s mother tells her stories of the wosiyòl, or nightingale. Soon, Saya begins to receive cassette tapes in the mail from her mother and finds hope and solace in the stories Mama has recorded for her. One night, amid a great deal of sadness and frustration, Saya writes a story of her own to ease the sadness. When Papa sends her letter to a newspaper reporter, everything changes, and Saya learns the incredible power of words and stories. Danticat, who was born in Haiti, was separated from her parents until she was 12 years old and beautifully conveys a story about loss and grief and hope and joy. Staub’s oil paintings are eye-catching and will hold the interest of young readers.
VERDICT This richly illustrated picture book is a first purchase, especially in communities with a large immigrant population."
-Jennifer Steib Simmons, School Library Journal (Starred Review)
"Danticat tells a serious yet hopeful story about a child whose Haitian mother is in an immigration detention center. Saya, whose hair is done up in tight braids with beads, visits her mother weekly but misses her terribly; she finds comfort in the bedtime stories her mother records on cassette tapes and sends her. Staub’s oil paintings temper the upsetting circumstances with bright colors and whimsical objects from the stories Saya’s mother tells, including winged hearts, dolphins, and mermaids. When Saya writes her own story and her father sends it to a journalist, the resulting chain of events brings Saya’s mother home. Readers similarly separated from a loved one may well find solace in Danticat’s honest storytelling. Ages 5–8."