Juanito Paloma, his mother Lucha, and his elderly father Felipe, are a tiny family who, after years of working in the fields of California's Central Valley, move to San Francisco's Latin Mission District to live with relatives. Juanito longs to be in one place, rather than "going, going, going," and pines for the love of his often-absent father. This family story of growing up Latino will resonate with readers of all backgrounds.
This story of Juanito, an elementary school Chicano, is written in free verse and is divided into two sections that are based on place in 1958 to 1959-first in San Francisco and then in San Diego. Juanito is also divided. On one side, his street life tempts him to do bad things such as throw bottles at stores, box, and sneak into the county morgue. On the other side is his family. His Mami is always telling him to be good, but his Papi is absent most of the time looking for healing spas back in Mexico. When his father is around, they move. Moving definitely divides him further. He cannot participate in the spring concert because he moves, nor can he keep up with his class work when he must go with his mother to the "well-fair" agency to register their new address. The verse form complements Herrera's play with language. He mixes song and Spanglish into his flowing narrative. His references from the time lend authenticity to the setting. Elvis, "Peggy Sue," and a Daniel Boone pocketknife are almost too iconic references. Fortunately his language play brings the reader right back into the text to experience a life completely different on a personal level. This book will complement the library filled with other verse novels such as Jaime Adoff's Jimi and Me (Hyperion, 2005/VOYA October 2005) and Herrera's CrashBoomLove (University of New Mexico Press, 1999/VOYA October 2000) VOYA CODES: 3Q 3P M J (Readable without serious defects; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2005, Scholastic, 304p., Ages 11 to 15.