Downtown Boy

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A novel in verse, this is the tale of a boy who grows up in California in the 1950s brings an exciting new talent to Scholastic Press.

Juanito Paloma, his mother Lucha, and his elderly father Felipe, are a tiny family who, after years of working in the fields of California's Central Valley, move to San Francisco's Latin Mission District to live with relatives. Juanito longs to be in one place, rather than "going, going, going," and pines for the love of his often-absent father. ...

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Overview

A novel in verse, this is the tale of a boy who grows up in California in the 1950s brings an exciting new talent to Scholastic Press.

Juanito Paloma, his mother Lucha, and his elderly father Felipe, are a tiny family who, after years of working in the fields of California's Central Valley, move to San Francisco's Latin Mission District to live with relatives. Juanito longs to be in one place, rather than "going, going, going," and pines for the love of his often-absent father. This family story of growing up Latino will resonate with readers of all backgrounds.

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Editorial Reviews

VOYA
This story of Juanito, an elementary school Chicano, is written in free verse and is divided into two sections that are based on place in 1958 to 1959-first in San Francisco and then in San Diego. Juanito is also divided. On one side, his street life tempts him to do bad things such as throw bottles at stores, box, and sneak into the county morgue. On the other side is his family. His Mami is always telling him to be good, but his Papi is absent most of the time looking for healing spas back in Mexico. When his father is around, they move. Moving definitely divides him further. He cannot participate in the spring concert because he moves, nor can he keep up with his class work when he must go with his mother to the "well-fair" agency to register their new address. The verse form complements Herrera's play with language. He mixes song and Spanglish into his flowing narrative. His references from the time lend authenticity to the setting. Elvis, "Peggy Sue," and a Daniel Boone pocketknife are almost too iconic references. Fortunately his language play brings the reader right back into the text to experience a life completely different on a personal level. This book will complement the library filled with other verse novels such as Jaime Adoff's Jimi and Me (Hyperion, 2005/VOYA October 2005) and Herrera's CrashBoomLove (University of New Mexico Press, 1999/VOYA October 2000) VOYA CODES: 3Q 3P M J (Readable without serious defects; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2005, Scholastic, 304p., Ages 11 to 15.
—Ann T. Reddy-Damon
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-Herrera's novel in verse tells of a year in the life of 10-year-old Juanito Palomares in late-1950s California. At the mercy of his roving father, the young Chicano reports on his sometimes bleak, yet ultimately hopeful existence. When he and his mother bunk with relatives in San Francisco, his cousin Chacho demands, "You wanna be a chump/or a champ?" to get him to box Sweet Pea Price, and to pursue wild dares at the hospital morgue. His father's return puts him in motion once again. San Diego is his next home, where he continues to change apartments and schools, often just as he begins to look forward to a special event. Flashbacks to the family's time in the state's central farm region, living by picking, show Juanito's guilt at revealing the Garcia family's location to the "green van" immigration officials. The Palomareses demonstrate a wealth of love when Juanito's father loses both legs to complications from diabetes, curtailing his travels. The language varies from prosaic sentences broken into lines of verse to poems quite lyrical, but action is in short supply. Lacking the universal appeal of Sandra Cisneros's The House on Mango Street (Knopf, 1991) and less engrossing than Karen Hesse's Out of the Dust (Scholastic, 1997), this novel perhaps speaks more to adult readers than to young people, who may not feel as much kinship to this boy of their grandparents' generation or before, even if they share his Latino heritage.-Suzanne Gordon, Richards Middle School, Lawrenceville, GA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Ten-year-old Juanito, son of migrant workers, is always the new kid. Eager to foster friendships, he must simultaneously avoid trouble with each group of kids he encounters. Expanding on the theme he introduced in his award winning Calling the Doves / El Canto de las Palomas (2001), Herrera captures one year from his 1950s California childhood recounting, in first-person free verse, a boy's fears, thoughts, loneliness and optimistic dreams when stability is challenged by the continual uprooting of a migrant nomadic lifestyle. Herrera succeeds in developing his main character with little more than the descriptive inner thoughts of his young narrator, incorporating certain Spanish phrases throughout the text. Unlike the overall positive uplifting atmosphere of the earlier picture book, this novel allows readers to feel pain, resignation and resilience to circumstances beyond a young boy's control. Nevertheless, Juanito is faithfully sure that life will continue beyond the loss of his diabetic father's ability to work, when he loses both legs to a gangrene infection. His stability is the continual love he receives from his parents. A poignant and lyrical look into a transient existence that may still apply today. (Fiction. 10-14)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780439644891
  • Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 11/1/2005
  • Pages: 304
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 740L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

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