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McCall, Guadalupe Garcia.


New York: Lee & Low Books, 2011.


ISBN 1600604293


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This story of a close-knit Mexican-American immigrant family is told in two to three page verses in the words of a 16-year-old girl written while sitting under a gnarled old mesquite tree.  Lupita’s family has moved from Mexico to the U.S. in order to have a better life.  And for a while, it is better.   Here’s an example written a few years after moving to Texas:

“It’s been more than eight years

since my parents transplanted us,

And our family has grown.

We’ve been pretty happy,

living the American Dream

here in Eagle Pass.”

And then as she realizes that something is wrong with her mother:

“But lately Mami’s changed.

She seems distracted.

Worry lines burden her forehead

day and night no matter how hard

I try to make her smile.”

And finally with a foreshadowing of events to come when Mami’s illness becomes apparent:   

“A thorny mesquite has sprouted

in the middle of her rose garden.

Even after Mami has pulled it out

by its roots repeatedly,

it keeps growing back.

Papi says the mesquite is nice to have.

And we will come to appreciate

its simple beauty among her delicate roses.”

When Lupita learns Mami has cancer, she is terrified by the possibility of losing the anchor of her close-knit family. Suddenly, being a high school student, starring in a play, and dealing with friends who don’t always understand, become less important than doing whatever she can to save Mami’s life. While her father cares for Mami at an out-of-town clinic, Lupita, thrust into caring for her seven younger siblings, takes refuge in the shade of the old mesquite tree to escape the chaos and write.
(Booktalk by the Sequoya Youth Book Award committee, 2014)

SUBJECTS:     Responsibility -- Fiction.
                        Family life -- Fiction.
                        Cancer -- Fiction.
                        Mexican Americans -- Fiction.
                        Texas -- Fiction.
                        Coming of age -- Fiction.
                        Novels in verse.

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