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After Tyler's father is injured in a tractor accident, his family hires migrant Mexican workers to help save their Vermont farm from foreclosure. Tyler isn’ t sure what to make of these workers....
After Tyler's father is injured in a tractor accident, his family hires migrant Mexican workers to help save their Vermont farm from foreclosure. Tyler isn’ t sure what to make of these workers....
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Description-

  • After Tyler's father is injured in a tractor accident, his family hires migrant Mexican workers to help save their Vermont farm from foreclosure. Tyler isn’ t sure what to make of these workers. Are they undocumented? And what about the three daughters, particularly Mari, the oldest, who is proud of her Mexican heritage but also increasingly connected her American life. Her family lives in constant fear of being discovered by the authorities and sent back to the poverty they left behind in Mexico. Can Tyler and Mari find a way to be friends despite their differences?

    In a novel full of hope, but no easy answers, Julia Alvarez weaves a beautiful and timely story that will stay with readers long after they finish it.
 

Awards-

Excerpts-

  • From the book Tyler looks out the window of his bedroom and can’t believe what he is seeing.
    He rubs his eyes. Still there! Some strange people are coming out of the trailer where the hired help usually stays. They have brown skin and black hair, and although they don’t wear feathers or carry tomahawks, they sure look like the American Indians in his history textbook last year in fifth grade.
    Tyler rushes out of his room and down the stairs. In the den his father is doing his physical therapy exercises with Mom’s help. The TV is turned on; Oprah is interviewing a lady who has come back from having died and is describ-ing how nice it is on the other side. “Dad,” Tyler gasps. “Mom!”
    “What is it? What is it?” Mom’s hand is at her heart, as if it might tear out of her chest and fly away.
    “There’s some Indians trespassing! They just came out of the trailer!”
    Dad is scrambling up from the chair, where he has been lifting a weight Mom has strapped to his right leg. He lets himself fall back down and turns the TV to mute with the remote control. “ ’Sokay, boy, quiet down,” he says. “You want to kill your mom with a heart attack?”
    Before this summer, this might have been a joke to smile at. But not anymore. Mid-June, just as school was letting out, Gramps died of a heart attack while working in his garden. Then, a few weeks later, Dad almost died in a farm accident. Two men down and Tyler’s older brother, Ben, leaving for college this fall. “You do the math,” his mom says whenever the topic comes up of how they can continue farming. Tyler has started thinking that maybe their farm is jinxed. How many bad things need to happen before a farm can be certified as a bad-luck farm?
    “But shouldn’t we call the police? They’re trespassing!” Tyler knows his dad keeps his land posted, which means put-ting up signs telling people not to come on his property without permission. It’s mostly to keep out hunters, who might mistakenly shoot a cow or, even worse, a person.
    “They’re not exactly trespassing,” his mom explains, and then she glances over at Dad, a look that means, You explain it, honey. 
    “Son,” his dad begins, “while you were away . . .”
    In the middle of the summer, Tyler was sent away for a visit to his uncle and aunt in Boston. His mom was worried about him.
    “He’s just not himself,” Tyler overheard Mom tell her sister, Roxanne, on the phone. “Very mopey. He keeps having nightmares. . . .” Tyler groaned. Nothing like having his feelings plastered out there for everyone to look at. 
    Of course Tyler was having nightmares! So many bad things had happened before the summer had even gotten started. 
    First, Gramps dying would have been bad enough. Then, Dad’s horrible accident. Tyler actually saw it happen. Afterward, he couldn’t stop playing the moment over and over in his head: the tractor climbing the hill, then doing this kind of weird backflip and pinning Dad underneath. Tyler would wake up screaming for help. 
    That day, Tyler rushed into the house and dialed 911. Otherwise, the paramedics said, his father would have died. Or maybe Dad would have been brought back to life to be on Oprah talking about the soft music and the bright lights. 
    It was amazing that Dad was still alive, even if it looked like his right arm would be forever useless and he’d always walk with a limp. His face was often in a grimace from the pain he felt.
    But the very...

About the Author-

  • Julia Alvarez is the author of several novels for young readers including How Tía Lola Came to Visit Stay, Finding Miracles, and Before We Were Free, winner of the ALA's Pura Belpré Award. Her books for adults include How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, In the Time of the Butterflies, and Once Upon a Quinceañera. She is a writer-in-residence at Middlebury College in Vermont.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    November 10, 2008
    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.

  • Kirkus

    November 15, 2008
    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)

    (COPYRIGHT (2008) KIRKUS REVIEWS/NIELSEN BUSINESS MEDIA, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)

  • School Library Journal

    February 1, 2009
    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 familysixth-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"

    Copyright 2009 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    December 1, 2008
    Grades 6-9 With quiet drama, Alvarez tells a contemporary immigration story through the alternating viewpoints of two young people in Vermont.After 11-year-old Tyler'sfatherisinjured in a tractor accident, the family is in danger of losing their dairy farm.Desperate for help, Tylers familyemploys Maris family, who are illegal migrant Mexican workers. Mari writesheartrending letters and diary entries, especially about Mam, who has disappeared during a trip to Mexico to visit Mari's dying abuelita. Is Mam in the hands of the border-crossing coyotes? Have they hurt her? Will Homeland Security (la migra) raid the farm? The plot is purposive, with messages about the historical connectionsbetween migrant workers today andthe Indians displacement, the Underground Railroad, and earlier immigrants seeking refuge. But the young peoples voices make for a fast read; the characters, including the adults, are drawn with real complexity; and the questions raised about the meaning of patriotism will spark debate.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2008, American Library Association.)

  • DOGO Books Gigi DR - This book is about when father got injured he needed to save the farm but he couldn't find workers so Mother and Father decided to leave it Tyler was sad because the farm meant a lot to him he's been with it for so long.So in order to save the farm they need to hire migrant Mexican workers to help save their farm .And Tyler when the workers came Tyler was confused because there was 3 other girls and Mother told him that the three girls are going to be going to the same school as you.Tyler doesn't know if they are going to get along because the girls came from Mexico to Vermont and he sticks with the law.My favorite characters are Mari and Tyler.My least favorite characters are Mother and Father because they want to send Grandma to a place to keep her in and they think it is the best for her but they don't even let Grandma choose if she wants to stay or go and Mari also was worried about her.Something I enjoyed about this book was that Mari and Tyler were able to be friends because both of them had issues like when they were in the school bus these two bullies were saying things to Tyler that his father did something illegal which was the girls because they came from Mexico to Vermont and Tyler frozed and didn't defend Mari and then they just stopped talking to each other but then Tyler did something for Mari too say sorry and he knew it was not her fault.So that's why I like it because they have problems but they both solve it together.The book is unique because even though there is differences they all together they stick together.I recommend this book because it talks about how there was some bad things but we solve it together and get it through the things.

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    Random House Children's Books
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