Argueta tells the story of 10-year-old Jimena Pérez, who unexpectedly journeys from her home in El Salvador to the U.S.
Told in a sequence of short poems first in Spanish and consequently in English, this poignant story introduces Jimena’s home through her senses: “Me gusta / el color de las zanahorias…. / Pero más me gusta / el olor de los marañones”; “I like the color / of the carrots…. / But what I like most / is the smell of the cashew fruit.” When young boys from a neighborhood gang threaten Jimena’s schoolmate, Jimena’s parents, fearing for their own daughter, decide that Jimena and her mother will join family living in Texas. After exiting El Salvador and later Guatemala, Jimena and her mother climb atop a train—La Bestia, known for its ruthlessness and peril—and later trek by foot. Authorities find Jimena and her mama and pull them from each other. “I feel alone. / Other kids are crying. / We’re little birds / alone and sad / in a metal cage.” The harrowing tale ends in a detention cell for children, yet in this realistic hell, Jimena manages to find some small hope. It leaves Jimena scared and uncertain, and it won’t be a stretch for readers to understand that the questions they have about Jimena apply to far too many real-life children like her.
A poignant, sincere, empathetic glimpse at family border separation. (Verse fiction. 8-14)