THESE STORIES TAKE the reader to meet mochos; cholos; Mr. and Mrs. Special; Manny with his mysterious phone calls; Melly, who dreams of being the first girl to take the Dive; Andy and Ruthie, who find that being “boyfriend-girlfriend” takes on new meaning the night of the prom; and Chuy, who seems determined to get kicked out of school. Each distinct voice shares secret thoughts that draw the reader into daily dramas of love, danger, loyalty, and pride. In the final story, a shocking tragedy reverberates through the barrio.
“With this collection, Saldaña makes a significant contribution to the field of Latino short stories for young readers.”—VOYA, Starred
“These powerfully written, provocative selections have universal appeal and subtle, thoughtful themes.”—School Library Journal
“While much is revealed, just as much is implied, making the stories layered and rich while still rendering them accessible.”—The Bulletin
In 11 intimate stories, readers enter Hispanic neighborhoods to meet adolescent heroes and heroines "finding their way" in the world. Salda a (The Jumping Tree) adroitly extracts meaning from quiet moments of reflection, illustrating the emotional states of his protagonists as they approach crossroads. In "Manny Calls," for example, the author poignantly expresses Manny's grief over his grandfather's death through Manny's compulsion to dial his grandfather's number, which is no longer in service, and talk (over the recording and subsequent "beepbeepbeep") as if his grandfather were listening. On the day a stranger answers the phone, Manny is faced with a moment of truth but he still cannot find closure. Elsewhere, one character's decision to do nothing is as profound as another's choice to take action. In "The Dive," one of her grandmother's cuentos ("stories that somehow served as life lessons") subtly persuades Melly that she, unlike the local boys, does not have to make a dive from a bridge into a river in order to prove her maturity. A few tales may be obvious or moralistic, but the author's wisdom and sensitivity are at their pinnacle in the title entry, which studies a community's response to a teen's unsolved murder. Whether following a straight and narrow path to adulthood or taking some dangerous curves, the characters are conceived with such depth and observed with so much compassion that their experiences may help forge paths for the audience as well. Ages 12-up.