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Return to Sender

3.8 42
by Julia Alvarez
     
 

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After his family hires migrant Mexican workers to help save their Vermont farm from foreclosure, eleven-year-old Tyler befriends the oldest daughter, but when he discovers they may not be in the country legally, he realizes that real friendship knows no borders. See more details below

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Overview

After his family hires migrant Mexican workers to help save their Vermont farm from foreclosure, eleven-year-old Tyler befriends the oldest daughter, but when he discovers they may not be in the country legally, he realizes that real friendship knows no borders.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

After Tyler's father's accident, his family hires undocumented Mexican workers in a last-ditch effort to keep their Vermont farm. Despite his reservations, Tyler soon bonds with a worker's daughter, who is in his sixth-grade class. His problems seem small compared to Mari's: her family fears deportation, and her mother has been missing since re-entering the States months ago. While this novel is certainly issue-driven, Alvarez (Before We Were Free) focuses on her main characters, mixing in Mexican customs and the touching letters that Mari writes to her mother, grandmother and even the U.S. president. Readers get a strong sense of Tyler's growing maturity, too, as he navigates complicated moral choices. Plot developments can be intense: Mari's uncle lands in jail, and her mother turns out to have been kidnapped and enslaved during her crossing. Some characters and sentiments are over-the-top, but readers will be moved by small moments, as when Tyler sneaks Mari's letter to her imprisoned uncle, watching as the man puts his palm on the glass while Tyler holds up the letter from the other side. A tender, well-constructed book. Ages 8-12. (Jan.)

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Children's Literature - Janice DeLong
Although going into the sixth grade may have its challenges, Tyler has become somewhat hardened to those since his father's farming accident has left him handicapped and in need of more help than his son can provide. With his older brother going off to college, Tyler feels even more burdened by the running the farm than when his role was just that of second son and younger brother. On awakening one morning to find new faces occupying the trailer where hired help has stayed in the past, the young farmer is both relieved and confused. Who are these people? Where did they come from? Will they be able to save the farm? Are they even legal? Thus, begins the saga of lots of gray areas and little black and white in this young adult novel expressing sympathy for illegal immigrants. Alvarez alternates voices from chapter to chapter, giving readers varying views of some difficult questions. Tyler's mom is a teacher. His father has been successfully managing a farm that is a legacy from generations back. After the accident, there must be more hands, and financial means are limited. To add interest and empathy, alternating chapters are from the point of view of Mari, a daughter of one of the Mexican workers. Mari wants to stay in the United States, but her mother has returned to Mexico and has become lost to her family. Interwoven in the story of Tyler's secure family structure is the dysfunction of Mari's. Readers are also brought face to face with the cruelty of the "coyotes" that promise safe passage into the States, but instead steal money and make their own countrymen and women slaves. Because of some understated sexual situations, readers below eleven may lack the maturity to read this book.Also bothersome is the painting of ICE officers in entirely unpleasant colors when they enforce the law. However, older readers need to look at the realities occurring on both sides of the border, and both sides of the illegal immigrant question. Maybe the next generation will have some plausible answers. Reviewer: Janice DeLong
School Library Journal

Gr 4-7

Sixth-grader Tyler Paquette lives in a dairy-farming community in Vermont. His father was injured in a tractor accident and must now turn to undocumented Mexican laborers to run the farm. Thus, a trailer on the property soon becomes home to the Cruz family-sixth-grader Mari, her two younger sisters, father, and two uncles, all needing work to survive and living with fear of la migra . They have had no word on Mari's mother, missing now for several months. Tyler and Mari share an interest in stargazing, and their extended families grow close over the course of one year with holiday celebrations and shared gatherings. Third-person chapters about Tyler alternate with Mari's lengthy, unmailed letters to her mother and diary entries. Touches of folksy humor surface in the mismatched romance of Tyler's widowed Grandma and cranky Mr. Rossetti. When "coyotes" contact Mr. Cruz and set terms for his wife's freedom, Tyler secretly loans the man his savings, then renegotiates a promised birthday trip in order to accompany Mari to North Carolina to help rescue her abused mother. When immigration agents finally raid the farm and imprison both Cruz parents, it signals an end to the "el norte" partnership, but not the human connections. This timely novel, torn right from the newspaper headlines, conveys a positive message of cooperation and understanding.-Susan W. Hunter, Riverside Middle School, Springfield, VT

Kirkus Reviews
Tyler is the son of generations of Vermont dairy farmers. Mari is the Mexican-born daughter of undocumented migrant laborers whose mother has vanished in a perilous border crossing. When Tyler's father is disabled in an accident, the only way the family can afford to keep the farm is by hiring Mari's family. As Tyler and Mari's friendship grows, the normal tensions of middle-school boy-girl friendships are complicated by philosophical and political truths. Tyler wonders how he can be a patriot while his family breaks the law. Mari worries about her vanished mother and lives in fear that she will be separated from her American-born sisters if la migra comes. Unashamedly didactic, Alvarez's novel effectively complicates simple equivalencies between what's illegal and what's wrong. Mari's experience is harrowing, with implied atrocities and immigration raids, but equally full of good people doing the best they can. The two children find hope despite the unhappily realistic conclusions to their troubles, in a story which sees the best in humanity alongside grim realities. Though it lacks nuance, still a must-read. (Fiction. 9-11)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780375851230
Publisher:
Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
09/14/2010
Pages:
352
Sales rank:
88,721
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.60(h) x 1.00(d)
Lexile:
890L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

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