In brief: When Tyler’s dad is injured in a tractor accident, his family hires a group of migrant workers to help on the family farm. As Tyler and Mari—the daughter of one of the laborers—form a tentative friendship, they’re forced to confront the differences in their lives, including Mari’s constant fear of being discovered and sent back to Mexico. Half the book is told from Tyler’s perspective by a third-person narrator, and half is through Mari’s letters to her mother.
What makes it a great readaloud: Alvarez really illuminates the problems with immigration, deportation, and what citizenship in the United States actually means through Mari and Tyler’s developing friendship, and she resists the urge to wrap things up with simple answers. You’ll be having great conversations about why people have come to the United States over the course of its history, what it means to be a family and a community, how people from different backgrounds and experiences can forge friendships, and what responsibilities friends have to each other. In today’s political landscape, these seem like especially important things to be talking about with our kids.
But be aware: Sometimes the message of the book takes precedence over the plot, and the story gets a little stilted because of it. (This is especially true in some of Mari’s letters.)
Quotable: “Life is about change, change, and more change. When you're born as a child, you die as a baby. Just like when you're born as a teenager, you die as a child.”