Despite a heavy-handed start and a somewhat predictable outcome, DeFelice's (The Apprenticeship of Lucas Whitaker) story about a 14-year-old who learns to respect the migrant workers on his father's farm offers much to absorb and stimulate readers. Joe, the narrator, initially seems spoiled as he asks for an $899 motorbike for his birthday ("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... in the middle of nowhere"). Joe's father decides Joe needs to learn the value of a dollar and tells him to earn the money by working in the fields. The plot conforms to type: Joe finds his tasks grueling and backbreaking and admires the skills of the hard-working crew of Mexicans, which includes teens who, like pretty 14-year-old Luisa, are wise beyond their years. At the same time Joe grows critical of his friends' shallow behavior and jaundiced attitudes and learns to think for himself. DeFelice shakes up convention, however, in a story line that draws attention to contradictory and confusing government policies regarding migrant workers. Without too much rigging of the scenes, she 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. Ages 10-up. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Joe knows what he wants for his fourteenth birthday. Actually, he is certain he "needed it if (he) wasn't going to die of boredom over summer vacation." When he tells his parents about the motorbike, his father tells him that if he works with the migrant crew on their farm that summer he can use the money he earns for the motorbike. Joe agrees and gets more than he bargains for. He had never paid much attention to the Mexicans who worked for his father, but he soon gets to know them. Joe becomes sensitive to his best friend's bigotry and also concerned about the way some people in the community treat these workers. When several of the workers must leave because they are at the farm illegally, Joe offers to take them to another farm. DeFelice presents the plight of migrant workers in a realistic New York State setting. Readers will get a better understanding of the complexity of the migrant worker issue and the importance of these workers. They will relate to Joe's young adult viewpoint, his interests, and the tension DeFelice aptly builds throughout the story. Joe evolves from someone totally clueless about the situation to someone willing to break the law to help others who live "under the same sky." 2003, Farrar Straus and Giroux, Ages 10 to 14.
It was all about a motorbike. To Joe Pederson, it meant freedom and being cool. He was sure that he could convince his father to buy it for his fourteenth birthday. When his father refuses to purchase the bike for Joe, he offers an alternative: Joe can earn the money by joining the summer migrant workers on the family farm. Joe figures it will take him eight weeks to earn enough. What Joe does not calculate, however, is the exhaustive nature of manual farm labor and that this job is going to teach him more than just the value of a dollar. As Joe makes friends with his father's workers, he discovers that sometimes a person has to do the wrong thing for the right reason. DeFelice's characters are believable if a little wise beyond their years. Joe is a resolute, likeable character, and it is satisfying to watch him grow over the course of the book. He shows admirable bravery when he stands up to his friends. Important social issues are addressed without the narrative becoming preachy. There are lessons, but they are never sugarcoated, nor does the book hit the reader over the head with morality. The pacing is a little slow until the last forty pages, but this tempo is acceptable in the frame of a coming-of-age story. This story will make readers think twice about their own prejudices. 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). 2003, Farrar Straus Giroux, 224p, Kraft
To quote the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, March 2003: Joe longs for a motorbike for his 14th birthday, but his father says he needs to earn the money for it. So Joe agrees to go to work with the crew of Mexican laborers who travel to his father's New York farm each summer. At first, he resents the responsible crew boss, Manuel, who is only 16, because Manuel has his father's respect in a way Joe doesn't. Joe also finds the work of planting cabbages, weeding, hoeing, and picking strawberries terribly difficult and utterly exhausting. Gradually, however, he comes to appreciate the workers and to understand that they are responsible for earning money to support families back home. He develops a crush on beautiful Louisa, a fellow crewmember and Manuel's cousin, and he grows angry at the anti-Mexican sentiment, and dangerous taunting, displayed by some in his township and even by some of his friends. When the migrathe INSshows up, Joe helps to keep Louisa and two other crewmembers who are illegal immigrants from being found and arrested, at considerable risk to himself, and his newly mature behavior helps to earn his father's long-sought respect, even though Joe has gone against the law. This look at migrant workers carefully lays out many of the issues involved, including the conflicts inherent in the immigration laws, and readers will come away with a new understanding and sympathy for these workers. This is a moving tale, with a valuable message, by the talented author of the historical YA novels The Apprenticeship of Lucas Whitaker and Nowhere to Call Home. KLIATT Codes: JRecommended for junior high school students. 2003, Farrar, Straus and Giroux,Sunburst, 215p., Ages 12 to 15.
School Library Journal
Gr 7-10-Joe Pedersen, 14, begrudgingly joins the migrant workers on his father's upstate New York farm to earn the $1000 he needs to buy a Thunderbird motorbike. Determined to show his father he can keep pace with Manuel, the 16-year-old crew boss, Joe painfully acclimates to the grueling routine of planting, hoeing, and weeding cabbages and picking strawberries. When immigration officials suddenly arrive at the farm, Joe discovers the fragile status of three workers who carry false papers in a desperate attempt to support their families back in Mexico. Previously insensitive to the plight of the migrants, Joe begins to grasp the hardships, uncertainty, loyalty, and courage of these laborers who are often ridiculed and threatened by his peers and other whites in the community. Joe's parents explain, however, the dilemma they face as employers and American citizens who must cooperate with contradictory INS regulations. A climactic raid during his parents' absence catapults Joe into decisions and actions that test his courage, character, and values. The teen's compelling coming-of-age experiences are tempered with sibling bickering, peer pressure, parental concerns, and cross-cultural bantering. His self-centered perspective gradually changes as his respect for his father's workers and his affection for Manuel's cousin, Luisa, grow. 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.-Gerry Larson, Durham School of the Arts, NC Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
In the course of a summer, Joe Pedersen is transformed from a self-absorbed 14-year-old to a young man willing to take risks to help others. While the implausibility of this quick transformation and some of the other plot elements present problems, DeFelice does deal successfully with contemporary issues about immigration and questions about civil disobedience at a level readers will understand. Joe's family owns a ranch in New York State, where migrant workers do much of the farm work in order to send money back to their families in Mexico. Joe, who apparently hasn't helped out much on the farm, makes the unlikely mistake of asking his hardworking parents for a $900 motorbike for this birthday. Instead, his father proposes Joe earn the money by laboring side-by-side with the Mexicans. As Joe gets to know Luisa, one of the workers his own age, he abandons his childish attitudes and starts to value his own lot in life. He makes a break from his racist friends and, through an act of courage, earns his father's respect. Suspense and romance keep the story going, at the same time that DeFelice conveys the vital work of migrant workers in US agriculture and draws attention to problems with immigration policies. While not as strong as The Apprenticeship of Lucas Whitaker (1998) or Weasel (1991) this will serve those looking for an exploration of these issues and a larger role in fiction for migrant workers who are all too ignored in literature and real life. (Fiction. 10-14)
From the Publisher
"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
Read an Excerpt
Peering through the misty rain, I saw two white vans with green stripes and some kind of official-looking insignia pulled up to the side of the road. I watched as four guys in uniforms got out of the vans, looked toward us, talked for a minute, and began heading our way across the field.Silence fell as, one by one, each crew member stopped work to look and then froze. Someone asked a question in Spanish, and I heard panic in his voice. I could feel fear in the air. It was contagious. "Who are those guys?" I asked. My voice sounded high and squeaky. I wanted to run, but didn't know why. There was nowhere to run to, anyway. The men were drawing closer. To my amazement, I saw that they had guns in holsters around their waists. "Who are they?" I repeated urgently, when no one answered. "Migra . . ." someone whispered.