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THE JUMPING TREE by Jr. Saldaña

THE JUMPING TREE

By Jr. Saldaña

Age Range: 10 - 14

Pub Date: May 8th, 2001
ISBN: 0-385-32725-0
Publisher: Delacorte

From a series of vivid vignettes of warmly remembered childhood experiences, Saldaña has fashioned a memorable first novel. Young Rey grows up in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, part of a loving family with strong ties across the border in Mexico, where there are frequent visits to grandparents, aunts, and uncles. For the most part, life is good, despite threatening poverty and occasional violence. Each chapter stands alone as a short story, but reading them in succession adds depth and resonance to each. During his middle-school years Rey struggles with what it means to grow up to be a man, an American, and a Chicano. He does well in school, unlike his friend Chuy, who ends up in jail. In “The Jumping Tree” chapter, Rey breaks his wrist by jumping from a huge mesquite tree in response to a dare from his cousins, then wears his cast as a badge of courage. Spanish words and phrases are sprinkled throughout, but most are understandable from the context. Saldaña’s work is very much in the tradition of such groundbreaking achievements as Parrot in the Oven (1996) by Victor Martinez and The Circuit (1999) by Francisco Jiménez, although his world is not quite so harsh. The warmth of family ties, especially Rey’s love and respect for his father, is strong, and there is reason to hope that Rey will succeed in creating a life for himself that bridges the two cultures to which he belongs. (Fiction 10-14)