Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Teacher Full of Stories Shares From North to South

René Colato Laínez was born in El Salvador. He uses his immigrant experience in many of his award-winning children’s books, and Críticas Magazine has called his characters “immigrant heroes”. He holds an MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. At Fernangeles elementary school where he teaches, he is known as “the teacher full of stories.” Visit him at

About his latest book, From North to South/Del Norte al Sur: José loves helping Mamá in the garden outside their home in California. But when Mamá is sent back to Mexico for not having proper papers, José and his Papá face an uncertain future. What will it be like to visit Mamá in Tijuana? When will Mamá be able to come home?

I have the fortunate opportunity to be a part of the From North to South virtual book tour and had the chance to ask Rene Colato Lainez about his inspiration for the book and why he decided to present the hotly contested issue of immigration in a children's book...

From North to South/Del Norte al SurTell us about your new book, From North to South/Del Norte al Sur.
From North to South is the story of José and his family. Two weeks ago, José’s mother did not come back home after work. José and his father are worried. That night, José’s mother called home. She was in Tijuana, Mexico now. She was deported because she did not have the right immigration papers. Now, José and his father are driving From North to South to visit her.

What was your inspiration for From North to South?
I am an elementary teacher. Most of my students have been born in the United States but many of their parents do not have the right immigration papers.

I have seen the sad faces of my students because the father or the mother or the grandfather was deported. Also, students leave the classroom, because they have to go live with their parents in a new country. Some students stay with relatives and friends. The idea to write this book was born in my classroom.

Immigration is one of the most hotly contested and divisive issues in the news today. Why did you decide to present the issue in a children's book?
All the news reveals are the deportation raids, and illegal workers taken to their native countries. But news does not concentrate on the loved ones who are left behind, the children who are left without a mother or a father. Also, the majority of the student population in the large school districts is from Latin America. From North to South is a story that touches their lives because they know someone like José and his mother.

I understand you're donating a percentage of your royalties. Who are you donating them to and why is it important?
I am donating a percentage of my royalties to Centro Madre Assunta. This is a refuge for immigrant women and children in Tijuana, Mexico. This refuge is a house for women and children who had been deported from the United States. At Centro Madre Assunta, they receive medical assistance, food and a place to stay. From North to South takes place in Centro Madre Assunta. José’s mother had been living there for two weeks. Now José and his father are on their way to Tijuana to visit her.

Centro Madre Assunta is doing a heroic job but their funds are limited. From North to South will be a helping hand to assist these immigrant women and children.

What do you hope children take away from the book?
After reading the book, I want readers to have hope for the future. Right now they can be a small seed, just like José, but in the future they will become beautiful big flowers ready to accomplish all their dreams.

To learn more about René Colato Laínez, please visit his official website.


  1. Thank you Lori for having me on your blog again.
    I enjoyed the interview.


    Rene Colato Lainez

  2. Thanks so much Rene and best of luck with the new book!