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DOWNTOWN BOY by Juan Felipe Herrera


by Juan Felipe Herrera

Age Range: 10 - 14

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2005
ISBN: 0-439-64489-5
Publisher: Scholastic

Ten-year-old Juanito, son of migrant workers, is always the new kid. Eager to foster friendships, he must simultaneously avoid trouble with each group of kids he encounters. Expanding on the theme he introduced in his award winning Calling the Doves / El Canto de las Palomas (2001), Herrera captures one year from his 1950s California childhood recounting, in first-person free verse, a boy’s fears, thoughts, loneliness and optimistic dreams when stability is challenged by the continual uprooting of a migrant nomadic lifestyle. Herrera succeeds in developing his main character with little more than the descriptive inner thoughts of his young narrator, incorporating certain Spanish phrases throughout the text. Unlike the overall positive uplifting atmosphere of the earlier picture book, this novel allows readers to feel pain, resignation and resilience to circumstances beyond a young boy’s control. Nevertheless, Juanito is faithfully sure that life will continue beyond the loss of his diabetic father’s ability to work, when he loses both legs to a gangrene infection. His stability is the continual love he receives from his parents. A poignant and lyrical look into a transient existence that may still apply today. (Fiction. 10-14)