Thursday, May 28, 2020

Santiago's Road Home

Diaz, Alexandra. Santiago's Road Home
May 5th 2020 by Simon Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Santiago has lived with his grandmother, who is abusive, and a variety of relatives since his mother's death. Most recently, he took care of his young cousins. Things are difficult for many people in Mexico, and when he is told to go to yet another relatives house, he decides instead to try to make it to the US. While he is trying to decide how to do this, he helps out a woman named María Dolores and her young daughter, Alegría. María is escaping untold problems of her own, and while she doesn't have a lot of money, she decides to help Santiago out. He comes with them, helps them to find someone trustworthy to get them across the border, and starts on the dangerous trip to the US with them. The man transporting them gets involved in a crash, and the three take off from the wrecked car to try to get to the nearest town. It's more difficult to get across the desert than they imagined, but they are lucky when someone finds them after María becomes ill. Unfortunately, she is taken to the hospital, and Santiago and Alegría are separated at the detention center. Circumstances there are dire and Santiago tries to survive while attempting to get information about the people he now considers family. Will he be able to locate them and start a new life in the US?
Strengths: This will appeal to readers for many different reasons. It addresses a current concern about the treatment of immigrants, it is a survival story, and it shows a child trying to create his own family when the one he started with does not meet his needs. My students have a very specific type of struggle that appeals to them, and Santiago's trials all fit that category. He flees an abusive situation, he has a dangerous road trip, and has to deal with the trauma of being in an institution that is not looking out for his best interest. Fast paced, interesting, and very, very timely story.
Weaknesses: After all the problems with American Dirt, I was cautious about this one. I don't know enough about the challenges faced by Mexican immigrants to know if  Diaz, who is the daughter of Cuban refugees, could accurately portray the struggle of Mexican immigrants. Since this author won a Pura del Pre nomination for The Only Road, and include a bibliography and seems to have researched the topic well, I think it is sensitively done.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing as a timely title similar to Efren Divided.

Newman, Catherine. How to be a Person: 65 Hugely Useful, Super-Important Skills to Learn Before You're Grown Up
May 26th 2020 by Storey Publishing, LLC

E ARC provided by Netgalley

Sometimes, when I read a book, I think about how my 7th grade self would have reacted to it. For this book, I would have written out a list of all 65 skills, posted it on the bulletin board in my room, and driven my mother up a tree trying to work my way through all of the skills! Some of the items mentioned are things that every 12 year old knew in 1977-- writing letters, sewing on a button, vacuuming a room. Heck, I was in charge of ironing all of my father's handkerchiefs when I was three! (Not joking. I had my own little ironing board and electric iron. Pink, of course.) But my students today can't even thread a needle or make a knot in the thread. They are sorely in need of these instructions.

I liked that the information was presented as basic things all people need to know to get by. Some things are purposefully vague-- how to take care of pets, for example. Others include more details, such as directions on how to clean a bathroom or some of the simple recipes. My 86 year old father would actually benefit a great deal from this book! My favorite instructions, however, are for folding a fitted sheet: just kidding, wad it up like everybody does!

The two color graphics are engaging, the print nice and big, and the instructions simple enough for even young readers to grasp. I will definitely be purchasing a copy for my library, and it will be great for handing to children who are "bored" and don't feel like reading a novel. If I had all the money in the world, I would buy each of my students their own. They need it!

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