Saturday, June 20, 2009


Tyler Paquette is an eleven-year-old boy, growing up on his family's dairy farm in Vermont. When his father is seriously injured in a tractor accident, the family is faced with hiring extra help or losing their farm. They hire three Mexican workers, who move into a trailer on the Paquette farm. One of the men has three daughters. Mari, the oldest, is about Tyler's age and the two children soon become friends.

Although the workers are a godsend in keeping the Paquette family farm afloat, there are many questions. First, and most pressing, although the workers have papers, no one is convinced that they are in the United States legally. Will "La Migra" (Homeland Security) come and take them away?Secondly, Mari's mom left for Mexico to visit her sick mother in  a year before and never returned. Where has she gone? Is she still alive? Finally, there are issues of culture and language. Mari writes about these issues, and others surrounding her family through the genres of letters and diaries (I love that aspect of the book).

As someone who teaches many children whose families have immigrated from Mexico (some legally but many illegally), I learned a great deal from reading RETURN TO SENDER. I have always known that my students worry about their families being split up or sent back to Mexico. I know that their families have less to live on because they send a portion of their salaries to relatives back home in Mexico. I know that my students often go without medical or dental care because of their immigrant status. This book helped me understand these issues at a much deeper level. For those reasons, I'm really glad I discovered RETURN TO SENDER.

At the same time, I don't know very many elementary kids, even upper elementary kids, that would enjoy this book. It's a book I would try with my most advanced elementary readers, or maybe as an after school book club with some of our older girls. Or, I might just encourage students to read the book in middle school… 


Mary Lee said...

Good solution-- Review with caveat! Looks like one to pay attention to for the Notables, what with the letters and diaries. Thanks for the review!

Kyle said...

I love Julia alvarez. would this make a good read aloud for a 3/4 multiage?