“Hi, I’m Marisol.”
This graphic novel for upper elementary school-aged readers, presents a fictionalized account of a participant’s experience in Operation Peter Pan.
Operation Peter Pan was a real “secret” program, lasting from 1960-1962, that was intended to safely house Cuban children in the United States away from the problematic regime policies of Fidel Castro. More information on this program is included in the back of the book, but you don’t need to know much – if anything – about this bit of history to enjoy and connect with the character Marisol.
Marisol’s confusion and sadness from being suddenly separated from her family and sent to a place where she knows no one- and, due to language differences, cannot speak to anyone- is portrayed exceptionally well in the transition from full color panels to dull grays. The world is not forever dark however, and as Marisol slowly bonds with her foster parents and the new world around her, color comes back into play- all the more vivid and welcome due to its absence.
As Marisol cannot speak the language used in her new home, the graphic novel becomes practically wordless in large sections. Marisol introducing herself to potential new friends at the end of the book is so clearly the acclimation of Marisol’s hard work and emotional resilience that it feels like a victory lap.
Marisol deals with a lot of new “firsts” within these comic-style pages: winter, food, language, and even her first period. These new experiences and Marisol’s reactions will resonate with any tween. With the current international refugee situation, this historical fiction graphic novel delivers a timely and poignant encouragement to step into another’s shoes.