When a Mexican family stops hearing from the eldest brother, working in the States, 12-year-old Mateo risks everything and runs away in search of Julian.
In this timely novel, Mateo leaves his home, Abuelita, Mami, and the youngest brother, Lucas, in the middle of the night—with no more than a backpack, notepad, pesos, and a little food and water—and heads north for Arkansas, Julian’s last known whereabouts. Injured and abandoned, Mateo meets Angel, a savvy, strong young girl. Though upon her introduction, Angel is far from feeble or fragile, as the story advances, her character loses the strength and depth she initially brings to the journey. Cognizant of the dangers before them, they swim the river into Texas undetected and proceed, often at odds while simultaneously entirely dependent on each other. The chapters toggle among Mateo’s narration, his journal entries, his memories, and dreams, which all hint at syncopated moments of magical realism, like so many Mexican tales. Two-time Newbery Honor winner Giff successfully delivers an accessibly fast-paced, novella-length adventure; moreover, its colorful, stunning cover will surely attract readers. Naturally there is Spanish punctuating the novel, though it’s minimal; Mateo’s commentary on his English lessons feels more like vocabulary building for native English speakers than the introductory vocabulary a native Spanish speaker would be learning.
A moving quest of family, survival, and home. (Fiction. 8-12)