Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote by Duncan Tonatiuh


Tonatiuh, Duncan.  Pancho Rabbbit and the Coyote.  Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2013.  $16.95,

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Reader’s Annotation:

When Papa Rabbit does not come home from his travels up north, Pancho decides to go looking for him himself.


Life on the rancho is not providing enough for the rabbit family, so Papa Rabbit, Senor Ram and Senor Rooster head north to search for more opportunities.  The rabbit family prepares a welcome home fiesta complete with papel picado, mole, tortillas, and aquamiel.  However, Papa Rabbit does not arrive home when he is supposed to.  Pancho, his eldest son, decides to go looking for Papa.  He is “helped” by Coyote, who takes him on a perilous journey on a fast moving train, through a swirling river, a dark, narrow tunnel, a dizzying desert.  Each leg of this journey takes something from Pancho.  Finally, it is his life in danger when he runs out of things to give to Coyote and Coyote then threatens to eat him.  Fortunately, Pancho is saved by his father, Senor Ram and Senor Rooster, who had been delayed and waylaid by crows.  They return to the rancho, and although there is no guarantee of money or a future, the family vows to stay together.


This portrayal of the migrant story is sadly true.  Tonatiuh’s portrayal of this migrant family’s experience, even though they are rabbits, serves to show children reasons for migration and the challenges in migration.  The fictionalized characters do not soften the often harsh realities that migrants must face.  From the Coyote, that ironically is the name of that is used by immigrant smugglers, to the crows who steal from Papa Rabbit and his friends, to the perilous journey Pancho Rabbit makes to find his father, these are all realistic obstacles and struggles that migrants face crossing the border, especially from Mexico to the United States.  Tonatiuh’s use of Spanish words makes the story seem even more true.  It is helpful that he includes a glossary at the end of the story, as well as a discussion of the issue of immigration, especially undocumented and illegal immigration.  The references and resources also provide readers with additional places to find out more information about immigration.

Rating Scale:

  • Popularity:1 – Would sit on shelves unread; 2 – May see the light of day as an assigned reading; 3 – Interesting to readers, may need marketing; 4 – Very appealing read, ; 5 – Need multiple copies, because it would always be checked out!
  • Quality: 1 – How was this book ever published?; 2 – Poor literary quality; 3 – Average literary quality, nothing stands out as exceptional; 4 – Overall high quality literary quality, with certain areas of exceptional literary quality; 5 – Well-crafted of the highest literary quality
  • Popularity: 3
  • Quality: 3

Genre and Subgenre:  realistic fiction

Appeal Factors:  migrant story, animal characters, Mexico

Readalike Titles or Authors:

  • My Shoes and I by Rene Colato Lainez
  • A Day’s Work by Eve Bunting

Awards Won and Book Lists:

  • 2014 Pura Belpre Honor Book
  • 2014 Notable Children’s Books

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Reason for Papa Rabbit to go north
  • Pancho’s decision to follow Papa Rabbit
  • Coyote turning on Pancho

Book Discussion Questions or Ideas:

  • Do you think Papa Rabbit should return north without his family?  Is it safe for his family to go with him?
  • What can the animals from the rancho do about Coyote and others like him?
  • Do you know of anyone who has had a similar story to the rabbit family?

Why I Chose This:

I chose this picture book because it was an illustrated and fictionalized version of the immigrant story that is very familiar here in Southern California.  I was interested in seeing how the story would be depicted if told as a fiction story about a rabbit family.