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First CrossingReview - First Crossing
Stories About Teen Immigrants
by Donald R. Gallo (Editor)
Candlewick, 2007
Review by Amy Ridley
Jan 15th 2008 (Volume 12, Issue 3)

This book contains ten short stories that describe some aspect of a teen immigrant's life in America. All of the stories are fiction but are based on scenarios that the author experienced first or second hand.

A few of the stories involve major events in the lives of these teens such as Marco's first trip across the border with his father to begin earning money for the family in Mexico. In "First Crossing" by Pam Munoz Ryan or the hatred felt by Per-Erik in "The Swede" by Alden R. Carter. Per-Erik's family has moved to the Midwest from Sweden because his father's company has bought the local paper mill. He feels the wrath of the town when the pink slips are handed out. The reaction of the teens in the town is appalling but not surprising given the circumstances.

Other stories deal with the day to day struggles of being an immigrant. In "My Favorite Chaperone" by jean Davies Okimoto, Maya and her family have moved to America from Kazakhstan. Her parents do not speak English and she has to translate for them. When her younger brother is bullied for being different and gets suspended, Maya is blamed for not taking care of him. Maya has a lot of responsibility for a teen and begins to resent that she cannot be a normal teen like her friends and do typical teen things like go to the Spring Fling. She is forced to live the way she would in her native country while trying to fit in in her new country.

The story of "Make Maddie Mad" by Rita Williams-Garcia is about Martine refusing to fully embrace America by continuing to speak and write in Creole while her rival Madeline refuses to acknowledge her Haitian background. Martine's mother hires Maddie to work at the family restaurant so that Maddie can help Martine with her d Martine can help her with her Creole. This story does not involve a major event but does show the struggle of an immigrant from both sides.

The stories in this book are thought-provoking in that they look at the psychological affects of being an immigrant. These kids are dealing with a new culture that they may not be ready to accept or do not want to accept but are being held back by their traditional parents. They are helping with siblings and grandparents. Many of them  are the sole link between their parents and the new world. These kids feel enormous pressure to translate to their parents what is going on at school or with their parents' jobs.

These short stories do not contain any foul language or explicit situations. They would be appropriate for middle school aged children and up.

 

© 2008 Amy Ridley

Amy Ridley received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Boston University.


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