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FINDING OUR WAY by Jr. Saldaña

FINDING OUR WAY

By Jr. Saldaña

Age Range: 12 & up

Pub Date: March 11th, 2003
ISBN: 0-385-73051-9
Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Saldaña’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+)