First Day in Grapesby L. King Perez, Robert Casilla
Now in paperback, the powerful story of a migrant boy who grows in self-confidence when he uses his math prowess to stand up to the school bullies.
School Library JournalGr 1-3-Chico's family leads a nomadic existence, following California's crops. Places don't have names but rather are associated with whatever fruit or vegetable is being harvested. The story begins as they arrive at a place simply identified as "a camp in grapes." Chico is understandably apprehensive about starting third grade at yet another new school because his previous experiences involved bullying and name calling. He meets an intimidating bus driver and a kind teacher, gets a chance to display his excellent math skills, makes new friends, and has a playground face-off with some notorious bullies. With enough positives to compensate for the challenges, the child finishes his first day of the school year with a sense of pride and accomplishment. Reminiscent of Francisco Jimenez's La Mariposa (Houghton, 1998; o.p.), this story also sheds light on the life of migrant children in a poignant, balanced manner. While some of the hardships are left unexplored, this title will serve as a launching point for discussions about the migrant experience. Although a bit static, the watercolor, colored-pencil, and pastel illustrations bring warmth and color to this portrait of life in rural California.-Rosalyn Pierini, San Luis Obispo City-County Library, CA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus ReviewsChico, the son of migrant workers, faces many first days in new schools, and today is his first day in third grade as well as his family's first day "in grapes." He's not looking forward to it, partly because he is sometimes picked on by the other students, partly because they don't teach race car driving in school. Mamá points out that everyone has a job and his is school; then makes sure to straighten his back before he leaves the house, a bit of encouragement that comes in handy later, when the dreaded bullying begins. Chico has an additional ace up his sleeve; while he struggles with writing English, he's learned how to add quickly from his experience picking and packing produce. Remembering his mother's straightening and his newly recognized math talent, he stands up to the bullies and wins the respect of his new third-grade peers. He even gets up the courage to befriend the intimidating bus driver, grouchy Old Hooch. Realistic watercolor, colored-pencil, and pastel illustrations excel in conveying Chico's emotions through facial expressions; his slightly sullen countenance as his teacher introduces him gives way to a shy smile as he realizes his seatmate just might be friendly this time. Although a bit didactic and perhaps a bit overly optimistic, Chico's success story is cheering, and will be useful in introducing some of the issues facing migrant kids. (Picture book. 6-10)
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