At the beginning of Alexandra Diaz’s latest novel, The Crossroads, 12-year-old Jaime and his older cousin Ángela have traveled from Guatemala to New Mexico to escape the Alphas, a violent gang that has been terrorizing their homeland. Without legal status and with little knowledge of the English language, the two young refugees find a safe home on the cattle ranch where Jaime’s brother, Tomás, has been employed for several years. Jaime, who has a difficult time understanding the teachers and fitting in with the students at the local school, finds comfort and satisfaction in drawing. His notebook is filled with memorable images, including a portrait of Don Vincente, a haggard old Mexican cowboy who takes Jaime under his wing on the cattle ranch, and the super hero comic strip that Jaime creates with a deaf student named Sean, whom he befriends on the school bus. When Don Vincente is arrested by immigration officers and threatened with deportation, Jaime risks his own safety to help the old man gain his release and return to his home on the ranch. The Crossroads provides young readers with a sensitive, realistic depiction of the enormous challenges faced by immigrants and refugees trying to find a new home in the United States, including the fear and uncertainty that have resulted from recent immigration policies. Diaz’s book includes a glossary of the Spanish words used in the story, along with a discussion guide with a list of questions about the book and suggestions for activities through which young readers can learn about the situation faced by immigrants and refugees in their own communities.
David Shirley ©2019 Parents’ Choice
David Shirley’s recent nonfiction titles include A History of Brooklyn Bridge Park and Fix It Leroy! His YA biographies, Every Day I Sing the Blues: The Story of B. B. King and Satchel Paige: Baseball Legend were honored as the New York Public Library’s Best Books for Teens.