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Finding Our Way

Finding Our Way

by Rene Saldana Jr.

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THESE STORIES TAKE the reader to meet mochos; cholos; Mr. and Mrs. Special; Manny with his mysterious phone calls; Melly, who dreams of being the first girl to take the Dive; Andy and Ruthie, who find that being “boyfriend-girlfriend” takes on new meaning the night of the prom; and Chuy, who seems determined to get kicked out of school. Each distinct voice


THESE STORIES TAKE the reader to meet mochos; cholos; Mr. and Mrs. Special; Manny with his mysterious phone calls; Melly, who dreams of being the first girl to take the Dive; Andy and Ruthie, who find that being “boyfriend-girlfriend” takes on new meaning the night of the prom; and Chuy, who seems determined to get kicked out of school. Each distinct voice shares secret thoughts that draw the reader into daily dramas of love, danger, loyalty, and pride. In the final story, a shocking tragedy reverberates through the barrio.

“With this collection, Saldaña makes a significant contribution to the field of Latino short stories for young readers.”—VOYA, Starred

“These powerfully written, provocative selections have universal appeal and subtle, thoughtful themes.”—School Library Journal

“While much is revealed, just as much is implied, making the stories layered and rich while still rendering them accessible.”—The Bulletin

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In 11 intimate stories, readers enter Hispanic neighborhoods to meet adolescent heroes and heroines "finding their way" in the world. Salda$a (The Jumping Tree) adroitly extracts meaning from quiet moments of reflection, illustrating the emotional states of his protagonists as they approach crossroads. In "Manny Calls," for example, the author poignantly expresses Manny's grief over his grandfather's death through Manny's compulsion to dial his grandfather's number, which is no longer in service, and talk (over the recording and subsequent "beepbeepbeep") as if his grandfather were listening. On the day a stranger answers the phone, Manny is faced with a moment of truth-but he still cannot find closure. Elsewhere, one character's decision to do nothing is as profound as another's choice to take action. In "The Dive," one of her grandmother's cuentos ("stories that somehow served as life lessons") subtly persuades Melly that she, unlike the local boys, does not have to make a dive from a bridge into a river in order to prove her maturity. A few tales may be obvious or moralistic, but the author's wisdom and sensitivity are at their pinnacle in the title entry, which studies a community's response to a teen's unsolved murder. Whether following a straight and narrow path to adulthood or taking some dangerous curves, the characters are conceived with such depth and observed with so much compassion that their experiences may help forge paths for the audience as well. Ages 12-up. (Mar.) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
In these eleven short stories, the reader experiences the complicated lives of several young protagonists in contemporary situations. In The Good Samaritan, Rey chooses to trade goodness for meanness when dealing with a neighborhood snob with political aspirations. Chuy's Beginnings portrays a ne'er-do-well student who sadly realizes how his behavior has complicated the lives of an understanding but fed-up teacher and a principal. In Andy and Ruthie, a guy takes his girlfriend for granted and ends up without a prom date. Kids taunting kids, a drama teacher whose students refuse to sing in a Christmas play, being the new kid, life in the school alternative center, ruined reputations and new starts, dealing with gang members and bullies, accepting the death of a grandparent, trying to find one's true self as a young woman, mysterious death and changes in a neighborhood, dealing with brothers and sisters, parents and grandparents-all are a part of these stories about young people trying to find their way. Most characters have Latino names and the settings are in Texas, but these tales are much more than ethnic stories in the land of growing up. Saldaña's previous novel, The Jumping Tree (Delacorte, 2001), was named a Booklist Top Ten Youth First Novel. With this collection, Saldaña makes a significant contribution to the field of Latino short stories for young readers, a field that also includes authors Diane de Anda, Gary Soto, David Rice, Viola Canales, Judith Ortiz Cofer, and Anilú Bernardo. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P M J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High,defined as grades 10 to 12). 2003, Wendy Lamb Books/Random House, 160p,
— Sherry York
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-Salda-a's collection of short stories and one brief novella offers snapshots of teens' lives. The outsider, or an unusual character, appears in a number of ways-as the new kid, as a drama teacher trying to instill in his students his own love of the theater, and as a boy making his way into the adult world. With a deft touch, the author creates a clear, concise picture of time and place (along the Texas border or Georgia) with characters who sound and think like today's teens. Reality is a strong point as both male and female characters act out what is important to them in their own worlds. Challenges, help, and hope can come from anywhere, including a disconnected telephone or a grandmother's kind words. "Chuy's Beginnings," "The Good Samaritan," and "Alternative" are first-person narratives relating incidents in three Hispanic males' lives. All are school stories, although much of the action takes place outside of the classroom. "Finding Our Way," an extended short story, deals with the death of a peer and the mystery of a runaway. These powerfully written, provocative selections have universal appeal and subtle, thoughtful themes.-Gail Richmond, San Diego Unified Schools, CA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Salda-a's (The Jumping Tree, 2001) collection of short stories offers daily dramas of friends, grandparents, teachers, brothers, and parents. The themes of growing up, proving yourself, reinventing yourself, and-ultimately-finding your way will play well for the suggested audience. Set in a Georgia town and in Texas on the Mexican border, the best stories delineate that tentative line between self and larger community. In "Chuy's Beginnings," Chuy is kicked out of class and sent to the office. In the conflict he causes between teacher and principal, Chuy begins to see a bit beyond himself to the consequences of his actions. His halting attempt at apology fails but offers hope in his growth as a person. These are hopeful stories, and the characters, despite their troubles, seem capable of finding their way, often with the subtle guidance of a grandparent or teacher. "Dive" is about Melly Otero, who must decide whether or not to jump off Jensen's Bridge, the rite of passage in her town, but her grandmother helps her see that she is already grown and has "nothing to prove to anybody." In "Alternative," Arturo has been thrown out of school for drug use and is writing about how he ended up at the Alternative Center. His autobiography is a vehicle for looking at where he is right now and realizing "there are other ways out." The messages woven into the story about writing personal narratives and poetry make it an excellent choice for high school writing classes. The collection is strong, with several excellent models for young short-story writers. (Fiction. 12+)

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
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Random House
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851 KB
Age Range:
12 Years

Read an Excerpt


The Good Samaritan

I know he's in there, I thought. I saw the curtains of his bedroom move, only a little, yes, but they moved.

Yesterday Orlie told me, "Come over tomorrow afternoon. We'll hang out by the pool."

I rang the doorbell again. Then I knocked.

The door creaked open. The afternoon light crept into the dark living room inch by slow inch. Mrs. Sanchez, Orlie's mom, stuck her head through the narrow opening, her body hidden behind the door. "Hi, Rey, how can I help you?"

"Ah, Mrs. Sanchez, is Orlando here?" I tried looking past her but only saw a few pictures hanging on the wall. One of the Sanchez family all dressed up fancy and smiling, standing in front of a gray marble background.

"No, he's not. He went with his father to Mission."

"Oh, because Orlando said he would be here, and told me to come over."

"They won't be back until later tonight," she said. "You can come by tomorrow and see if he's here. You know how it is in the summer. He and his dad are always doing work here and there. Come back tomorrow, but call first."

"It's just that he said I could come by and swim in your pool. Dijo, 'Tomorrow, come over. I'll be here. We'll go swimming.' "

"I'm sorry he told you that, but without him or my husband here, you won't be able to use the pool," me dijo Mrs. Sanchez.

"Okay," I said.

"Maybe tomorrow?"

"Yeah, maybe."

But there was no maybe about it. I wouldn't be coming back. Because I knew that Orlando was in the house, he just didn't want to hang out. Bien codo con su pool. Plain stingy. And tricky. This guy invited me and a few others over all summer to help his dad with some yard work because Mr. Sanchez told us, "If you help clean up the yard, you boys can use the pool any time you want so long as one of us is here." And we cleaned up his yard. On that hot day the water that smelled of chlorine looked delicious to me. And after a hard day's work cleaning his yard, I so looked forward to taking a dip. I'd even worn my trunks under my work clothes. Then Mr. Sanchez said, "Come by tomorrow. I don't want you fellas to track all this dirt into the pool."

"We can go home and shower and be back," said Hernando.

"No, mejor que regresen ma-ana. I'll be here tomorrow and we can swim. After lunch, okay. For sure we'll do it tomorrow," said Mr. Sanchez.

The following day he was there, but he was headed out right after lunch and he didn't feel safe leaving us behind without supervision. "If one of you drowns, your parents will be angry at me and . . ." He didn't say it, but he didn't need to. One of our parents could sue him. And he needed that like I needed another F in my Geometry I class! Or, we figured out later, he could have just said, "I used you saps to do my dirty work. And I lied about the pool, suckers!"

I don't know why we hadn't learned our lesson. Twice before he had gypped us this way of our time and effort. Always dangling the carrot in front of our eyes, then snatching it away last second.

One of those times he promised us soft drinks and snacks if we helped clean up a yard across the street from his house. It wasn't his yard to worry about, but I guess he just didn't like to see the weeds growing as tall as dogs. What if he had company? What would they think? And he was angling for a position on the school board. How could a politico live in such filth!

Well, we did get a soft drink and chips, only it was one two-liter bottle of Coke and one bag of chips for close to ten of us. We had no cups, and the older, stronger boys got dibs on most of the eats. "I didn't know there'd be so many of you," he said. "Well, share. And thanks. You all are good, strong boys."

The next time was real hard labor. He said, "Help me dig these holes here, then we can put up some basketball rims. Once the cement dries on the court itself, you all can come over and play anytime since it's kind of your court too. That is, if you help me dig the holes."

And we did. We dug and dug and dug for close to six hours straight until we got done, passing on the shovel from one of us to the next. But we got it done. We had our court. Mr. Sanchez kept his word. He reminded us we could come over to play anytime, and we took special care not to dunk and grab hold of the rim. Even the shortest kid could practically dunk it because the baskets were so low. But we'd seen the rims all bent down at the different yards at school. And we didn't want that for our court.

One day, we wanted to play a little three on three. After knocking on the different doors several times and getting no answer, we figured the Sanchez family had gone out. We decided that it'd be okay to play. We weren't going to do anything wrong. The court was far enough from the house that we couldn't possibly break a window. And Mr. Sanchez had said we could come over any time we wanted. It was our court, after all. Those were his words exactly.

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

René Saldaña, Jr. is the author of The Jumping Tree. He currently teaches English and writing at the university level in south Texas. The author lives in Edinburgh, TX.

From the Hardcover edition.

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