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Fronteras: 'My Two Border Towns' highlights the uniqueness of transnational communities for young readers

The story of a young boy’s life on the U.S.-Mexico Border and his daily crossing to el otro lado — or the other side — is the focus of the picture book “My Two Border Towns.”

David Bowles, an associate professor in the Department of Literatures and Cultural Studies at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, wrote the book based on his own experiences living on the South Texas border.

This is Bowles’ first picture book, but he’s written over a dozen award-winning titles, including for “They Call Me Güero.”

Bowles said there’s a real-life inspiration and message behind “My Two Border Towns.”

“I thought that a picture book would be a really interesting way for people outside of the border to come at this issue in a nonpolitical way, in a humanitarian way, in a cultural and geographically centric way,” Bowles said.

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From left to right: David Bowles, professor of Literature and Culture Studies at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, author of "My Two Border Towns." Photo courtesy of Lobo; Erika Meza, illustrator of "My Two Border Towns." Photo courtesy of Pedro Augusto Meza.

Erika Meza is an illustrator for children’s books who was born in Mexico and now lives in the U.K. She works in ink, gouache and watercolor pencils, all of which bring to life the story of the unnamed boy and his father in “My Two Border Towns.”

Meza based her illustrations on her memories living on the California-Mexico border.

“I was very keen on trying to define something that would identify only the border,” she said. “To see it and to immediately feel that binational national kind of blend … so that no matter where you were in that line, you would still feel like it's something familiar and close to home.”

“My Two Border Towns,” is a recent recipient of the Tomás Rivera Children’s Book Award. The book is also available in Spanish.

Bowles will be in San Antonio on May 21 for the 10th annual San Antonio Book Festival.

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Norma Martinez can be reached at norma@tpr.org and on Twitter at @NormDog1
Marian Navarro produces for Texas Public Radio's Morning Edition and Fronteras.