Under the Same Skyby Cynthia DeFelice
A teenager discovers racism and romance on his father's farm
For his fourteenth birthday, Joe Pedersen wants a motorbike that costs nearly a thousand dollars. But his mom says the usual birthday gift is fifty dollars, and his dad wants Joe to earn the rest of the money himself and "find out what a real day's work feels like." Angry that his father/p>/b>
A teenager discovers racism and romance on his father's farm
For his fourteenth birthday, Joe Pedersen wants a motorbike that costs nearly a thousand dollars. But his mom says the usual birthday gift is fifty dollars, and his dad wants Joe to earn the rest of the money himself and "find out what a real day's work feels like." Angry that his father doesn't think he's up to the job, Joe joins the Mexican laborers who come to his father's farm each summer. Manuel, the crew boss, is only sixteen, yet highly regarded by the other workers and the Pedersen family. Joe's resentment grows when his father treats Manuel as an equal. Compared with Manuel, Joe knows nothing about planting and hoeing cabbage and picking strawberries. But he toughs out the long, grueling days in the hot sun, determined not only to make money but to gain the respect of his stern, hardworking father. Joe soon learns about the problems and fears the Mexicans live with every day, and, before long, thanks to Manuel, his beautiful cousin Luisa, and the rest of the crew, Joe comes to see the world in a whole different way.
In her sensitive new novel, Cynthia DeFelice explores our dependency on migrant workers and simultaneous reluctance to let these people into our country and into our lives.
Under the Same Sky is a 2004 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.
“Will make readers think twice about their own prejudices.” VOYA
“With sensitivity and self-deprecating humor and reflection, Joe narrates a well-paced story that illuminates the need for understanding, tolerance, and discussion of the role and rights of migrant workers in the United States.” School Library Journal
“Offers much to absorb and stimulate readers . . . [DeFelice] engineers a dramatic climax that allows Joe to demonstrate real courage - and that will let readers grapple with the notion that right and wrong are not always easily identifiable.” Publishers Weekly
“Suspense and romance keep the story going, at the same time that DeFelice conveys the vital work of migrant workers in U.S. agriculture and draws attention to problems with immigration policies.” Kirkus Reviews
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- Age Range:
- 10 - 14 Years
Read an Excerpt
Under the Same Sky
By Cynthia DeFelice
Farrar, Straus and GirouxCopyright © 2003 Cynthia DeFelice
All rights reserved.
The X-treme Sportz catalog in the back pocket of my jeans was folded open to the page I planned to show my parents, if I ever got the chance to talk. All through dinner, Mom had been going on and on about the big reunion her family held every July, and how she hoped we could go this year.
As soon as Mom finished, my little sister, Meg, started in on the end-of-year festivities at the elementary school. "Then we do the three-legged race," she was saying. "Jen and I won it together last year, so we've been practicing. Then ..."
I tried to tune out her eager voice and concentrate on a smooth way to bring up the subject of my fourteenth birthday — and the motorbike I wanted my parents to buy me. I hoped it wasn't too late. My birthday was tomorrow. But I hadn't known what I wanted until that morning at school, when my friend Randy Vogt showed me the picture of the Thunderbird.
I had to make clear to my parents that it wasn't simply a question of wanting the bike. I really needed it if I wasn't going to die of boredom over summer vacation. The way I figured it, getting me the bike was the least my parents could do. Nobody had ever asked me if I wanted to grow up on a farm eight miles from town, in the middle of nowhere. My dad was born here, and so were his father and grandfather and probably his great-grandfather, too. Dad's younger sisters, my Aunt Kay and Aunt Mary, had both married farmers and lived nearby with their husbands, Uncle Bud and Uncle Arnie.
I guess none of them minded living out in the sticks, but I hated it. Town was where all the action was. If I never saw another cabbage field or apple orchard in my entire life, it would be just fine with me.
All I needed was for Meg to stop hogging the conversation for a minute, and she seemed to be winding down, at last. "So I said I'd bring cupcakes for the party, okay, Mom?" she asked.
"Okay," said Mom. "You can help me make them, as soon as we get dinner cleaned up." She turned from Meg to me and smiled. "Speaking of cakes, someone's birthday is coming right up. Have you thought about what kind of cake you'd like, Joe?"
I couldn't believe my luck. Mom had given me the perfect opening. "Aw, Mom," I said, "you don't have to go to all that trouble."
"But I always make you a birthday cake. What kind would you like?"
"Honest, Mom, you can skip the cake this year. There's really only one thing I want."
"Oh? And what's that?" she asked, and I could see that I had hurt her feelings.
"It's not that I don't love your cakes, Mom," I said quickly. "A chocolate cake with peanut-butter frosting would be great. It's just that there's this really cool thing I saw ..." I paused, fumbling for the smooth, persuasive words I'd worked out in advance, but nothing came out of my mouth.
My older sister, LuAnn, laughed. "Well, come on, Joe. Spit it out."
I looked at Dad. His face was rugged from years of working outdoors, and his eyes blazed a startling blue. I sat up straighter and squared my shoulders. Trying for the confident voice I had practiced, I took the catalog from my pocket and said, "There's this really cool motorbike I want."
A quick look at the picture of the black-and-chrome Thunderbird was enough to strengthen my resolve. "It's the one on the top," I said, leaning across the table to place the catalog between my mother and father. "And, see, there's an 800 number so you can call and order it with a credit card."
I watched anxiously while they studied the picture. As the silence grew longer, LuAnn got up to carry her dishes to the sink. She glanced at the catalog over Mom's shoulder and her eyebrows shot up. She looked at me and mouthed the words Dream on.
I looked away quickly, hoping that she hadn't jinxed my chances, only to find myself pinned by the intensity of my father's gaze. For a moment, our eyes remained locked.
Then Dad spoke. "Eight hundred ninety-nine dollars."
The words hung in the air, almost as if he had written them there.
"Are you serious?" he asked. The way he said it did not bode well.
"It's an awful lot of money, Joe," Mom said quietly.
"I know, but, look —" I hurried to jump in before either of them could say anything more. "It's got all-terrain tires and shocks and a heavy frame for off-road use, so it'll go even on the farm lanes. And I figure it'll save you a lot of time this summer, 'cause whenever I want to hang out with my friends, I'll be able to ride into town next to the railroad track instead of asking you to drive me."
Dad slid the magazine toward me and folded his hands across his chest. Then he spoke in slow, measured tones. "Your mother, in case you haven't noticed, has plenty to do without chauffeuring you around all summer so you can 'hang out with your friends.'"
"I know," I said, "but —"
"And eight hundred ninety-nine dollars," he went on, "is, as your mother just pointed out, a heck of a lot of money."
"I know." I'd anticipated that he might say that, and had cleverly thought of a back-up plan. This seemed like a good time to bring it up. "But, look. There's another model that costs less." I pointed to the Streaker. It wasn't as powerful or slick-looking as the Thunderbird, but it was still very cool, and it would do the job of getting me out of here and into town. "See, it's only seven hundred seventy-nine."
Dad glanced at the catalog. "Only seven hundred seventy-nine dollars," he repeated.
"I know it sounds like a lot of money," I began.
"No, Joe," Dad interrupted. "It doesn't just sound like a lot of money. It is a lot of money. Do you know how many heads of cabbage I have to sell to make seven hundred seventy-nine dollars' profit?"
Oh, man, I thought. Here comes the lecture.
"No," I answered sullenly.
"Do you have any idea how long it would take the average farmworker to earn seven hundred seventy-nine dollars?"
"Take a guess."
I shrugged. "A couple days, probably."
I felt like saying, I have a question, too. How many years does a guy have to work on a farm before he forgets what it means to have fun?
"I don't know," I said instead. Let him think he'd won this stupid little game.
"Well, maybe it's time you found out," Dad replied.
I groaned inwardly. I'd stopped asking my father for answers a long time ago because of his tendency to say, "Good question. Why don't you get the encyclopedia and see if you can find out?" What was he going to do now, make me research farmworkers' wages or something?
It turned out to be much worse.
"I think it's high time you had to work for what you want instead of having it handed to you," Dad continued. "Give you an idea of what a dollar's worth."
He turned to my mother. "What's the going rate for birthdays, Vivian?"
Mom looked flustered. "Well, I don't know. Let me see. About fifty dollars, I think. Since Joe hadn't mentioned anything special he wanted — until tonight, anyway — I was planning to give him money."
Dad reached into his pocket, took out his wallet, and pulled out two twenties and a ten. "Here you go," he said. "You can put that toward the gizmo you want. The rest you can earn right here on the farm."
"How?" I asked cautiously.
"You can work with the crew," Dad answered. "Find out what a real day's work feels like. I'll pay you the same wage I'd pay any beginner. How's that sound?"
How did that sound? It sounded like my worst nightmare. Working for my father, doing some hot, boring farm job like hoeing cabbage. During summer vacation, when all the other guys were swimming and hanging out and having fun.
I looked at Mom to see how she thought it sounded. Us kids working on the farm was something she and Dad didn't exactly agree on, luckily for us. Dad was always going on and on about the good old days, when he did a full day's work in the fields starting at age ten. He'd have had us doing the same thing if it weren't for Mom. She worried about how dangerous farm work was and said kids needed time to be kids, which always made Dad shake his head as if he didn't know what the world was coming to. But in the end, he always gave in. Or he had until now.
"Joe working with the crew, Jim? I'm not sure that's a good idea."
"Why not?" Dad asked heartily. "He's fourteen."
"Just because the law says children can do farm work when they're fourteen doesn't mean they should," Mom said.
"He's not a child, Vivian," said Dad. "You just heard him say he wants a motorcycle."
"Joe on a motorcycle," murmured LuAnn. "Now, there's a scary thought."
I scowled at her, my mouth silently forming the words Shut up. She had been unbearable ever since she'd turned sixteen and gotten her driver's license.
Turning to Dad, I almost said, It's not a motorcycle, it's a motorbike, to remind him of the difference. But then it would sound as if I was trying to argue that I was a child, after all. The last thing I wanted to do was work on a farm crew, but there was no way I was going to claim it was because I was too much of a baby. Somehow Dad had turned the tables. Feeling confused, I kept my mouth shut, hoping Mom would convince him this was a bad idea.
She thought for a moment, then said, "He'd be working with Manuel?"
Manuel. I'd heard the name. He was one of the Mexican guys who were here working on the farm. A bunch of them came every April and left around November, when the harvest was done. I didn't pay too much attention, so I didn't know exactly which one was Manuel. Mom obviously did.
"Well, then, I guess it would be okay," she said.
Terrific. I'd been betrayed by my own mother.
Dad was smiling, probably as unable as I was to believe that Mom had caved. "What do you say, Joe?"
"Great, Dad," I replied. If he heard the sarcasm in my voice, he chose to ignore it.
"Tomorrow's your last day of school, isn't it?" Dad went on.
"Yeah," I answered, looking down at my lap instead of at him.
"You can start work the next day." He looked at me, eyebrows raised expectantly. Was he waiting for me to get down on my knees and thank him?
"Great, Dad," I said again. Under my breath, I hummed the "Happy Birthday" song, mostly to stop myself from making a comment that would start a major confrontation. What was the point? I could tell Dad's mind was made up. He really thought he'd made a great decision, one that was "good for me."
I considered asking, What if I just keep the fifty bucks and forget all about the motorbike and working on the farm? But another look at the catalog picture of the Streaker blew that idea away. I really wanted that bike. It was my ticket to town, to freedom, and to fun — something Dad would never understand.
He wanted me to see "what a real day's work feels like." He clearly thought I'd never worked hard before and wouldn't be able to hack it. Didn't he realize I'd been mowing and raking the yard for years? It was a big yard, too. I'd loaded crates of vegetables for delivery plenty of times. Just last fall I'd helped Dad, Uncle Bud, and Uncle Arnie put down the foundations for the new trailers where some of the workers lived. But that didn't seem to count.
Well, fine. I'd work with this guy Manuel and his crew. It wouldn't take me long to earn enough for the Streaker, and then I'd quit — with plenty of summer vacation left to enjoy it.CHAPTER 2
I was cleaning out my locker at school the next day, working beside Randy. We were both on the junior varsity lacrosse team, so when I took my stick out of my locker, I dropped back and pretended to throw him a pass. We'd just played the last game of the season, beating our big rival, and were still feeling pretty good about it.
Randy, who was the team captain and a great attack man, made the motions of catching the ball and quick-sticking for a goal.
Loudly, I hummed the victory song the band struck up every time our team scored. Randy took a bow. "So," he said, turning back to his locker, "did you show the catalog to your parents?"
"Did they order the bike, or what?"
I told him what had happened.
"Tough luck, dude," he said. "I hate to rub it in, but I made out way better. I told Dad that Mom said motorbikes aren't safe, and he came through with the money right away. I'm getting the Thunderbird."
Listening, I couldn't help thinking there were advantages to having divorced parents. It seemed to me that Randy's mother and father were in a contest to show who loved their son the most, and the way they tried to prove it was by buying him stuff. If one of them wouldn't get him something he wanted, the other surely would, just to show what a bad guy the first parent was. Randy was an expert at playing the game.
"You lucky bum," I muttered.
"So, wait a second," Randy continued. "You're saying you have to spend the summer on one of your father's chain gangs?"
I squirmed uncomfortably at the image. "They're not chain gangs," I said. "They're work crews."
"But aren't all those guys, like, greasers?"
"They're from Mexico," I said cautiously, glad Mom wasn't there to hear him. She'd probably drag him into the boys' lav and wash his mouth out with soap.
"Like I said, greasers," said Randy with a shrug. "Do they even speak English?"
"Some. They mostly talk Spanish to each other."
"That's going to be weird," Randy said. He laughed. "They could be saying all kinds of bad stuff about you, and you wouldn't even know it."
Randy was always coming out with comments like that. Sometimes I wondered why I thought of him as my best friend. "Why would they do that?" I asked.
"You're the boss's son, right?"
"So you'll get special treatment, right?"
"Not much chance of that," I said darkly. I might be the boss's son, but I didn't think my father was going to cut me any slack because of it. And I sure wasn't going to be running to him for favors. I planned to avoid him as much as possible.
"Well, it's not like you're going to be one of the guys," Randy said. The bell rang just as he added, "Not that you'd want to be."
I wasn't sure what he meant, or even if I'd heard him right, but there was no time to ask. He was already headed to his next class, and I had to go, too.
Later on, at lunch, I heard someone yell across the cafeteria, "José! Excuse me, Señor José Pedersen, is that you?"
I looked up to see Randy and another kid on our team, Jason Steiner, grinning at me. "Señor José, amigo," said Jason, "why you not working een the fields earning muchos dineros?"
Randy, it seemed, had been spreading the word about my new job.
"Very funny," I said. "How many years have you been taking Spanish? You sound pathetic."
"Yeah? How much Spanish do you know?"
"Not much," I admitted. I'd had a little in third grade. When we had to sign up to take a language in middle school, I'd picked French, mostly because Mom had taken it and I figured she'd be able to help me.
"Well, you better learn quick, señor, so you can spic to your amigos. Get it? Spic to your amigos?" Randy looked quite proud of his little joke.
"Ha-ha," I muttered.
"So, Joe," Jason said, "Randy told me your dad is making you do, like, slave labor this summer."
"Slaves don't get paid, pea-brain," I pointed out. "I am."
"Well, I hope you're getting paid a lot, man," said Jason. "I've seen those guys working, and it is definitely not my idea of a good time."
Mine, either. Suddenly I saw in my mind a group of dark-skinned, dark-haired, raggedly dressed people with hats or bandannas on their heads, moving slowly down long rows of plants, their backs bent, their bodies swaying with the movement of their hoes. It was something I'd seen on farms all around us for as long as I could remember, but for the first time I was really seeing it. I tried to imagine myself in the middle of that scene, and found that I couldn't.
I shook my head. "My old man says it's gonna be good for me. He's so —" I shook my head again, unable to come up with a suitable word to describe my father. "Lame," I finally said.
Sometimes when I thought of my father, I pictured one of those guys in a robe or a toga from an old religious movie. Like Moses. Stern. Strict. Serious. Always right. Always telling everybody else what to do.
Excerpted from Under the Same Sky by Cynthia DeFelice. Copyright © 2003 Cynthia DeFelice. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Cynthia DeFelice is the author of many bestselling books for young readers, including The Ghost of Fossil Glen, Wild Life, Signal, The Missing Manatee, and Weasel. Her books have been nominated for an Edgar Allen Poe Award and listed as American Library Association Notable Children's Books and Bank Street Best Children's Book of the Year, among numerous other honors. She lives in upstate New York.
Cynthia DeFelice is the author of many bestselling titles for young readers, including the novels Wild Life, The Ghost of Cutler Creek, Signal, and The Missing Manatee, as well as the picture books, One Potato, Two Potato, and Casey in the Bath. Her books have been nominated for an Edgar Allan Poe Award and listed as American Library Association Notable Children's Books and Bank Street Best Children's Book of the Year, among numerous other honors. Cynthia was born in Philadelphia in 1951. As a child, she was always reading. Summer vacations began with a trip to the bookstore, where she and her sister and brothers were allowed to pick out books for their summer reading. “To me,” she says, “those trips to the bookstore were even better than the rare occasions when we were given a quarter and turned loose at the penny-candy store on the boardwalk.” Cynthia has worked as a bookseller, a barn painter, a storyteller, and a school librarian. When asked what she loves best about being an author, she can’t pick just one answer: “I love the feeling of being caught up in the lives of the characters I am writing about. I enjoy the challenge of trying to write as honestly as I can, and I find enormous satisfaction in hearing from readers that something I wrote touched them, delighted them, made them shiver with fear or shake with laughter, or think about something new.” Cynthia and her husband live in Geneva, New York.
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Dont just read the sample read the whole book. Trust me it is totally worth it. It is good for 6 grade and up and if you this type of book you could read it anytime. I LOVE THIS AUTHOR SHE IS THE BEST AND IS MY FAVORITE ONE OUT THERE keep writting Cynthia!!!!!!!
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