The Jumping Tree

by René Saldaña, Jr.

Rey Castañeda lives in Nuevo Peñitas, Texas, “a stone’s throw... read more

Rey Castañeda lives in Nuevo Peñitas, Texas, “a stone’s throw from Mexico.” In the funny, tender narrative, Rey describes his extended Mexican American family on both sides of the border; his adventures and misdeeds with his best friend, Chuy; and his challenges and triumphs at school. Each chapter is a vignette in the life of this boy who is becoming a man. Throughout the novel, we see Rey’s confusion as he tries to determine what kind of a man he wants to become. He observes the differences — and the tensions — between the machismo of his uncles and his father, who has made a conscious decision to be a different kind of man. His father has also chosen a life in the United States so that his children can get a good education, even though it means leaving his beloved Mexico and living in constant economic struggle. His father is a proud Chicano. Rey is, too, but he wonders if his dad shouldn’t stand up for himself more. And sometimes Rey wonders, as he studies the history of Texas in school, where the truth about his people is in the books they read. The boy’s friendships change when the more studious Rey chooses a different path from bright troublemaker Chuy. The author moves seamlessly between moments of high humor and moments of gravity, with much rich material in between. He just as seamlessly weaves Spanish words and phrases that can be understood in context into this debut novel of depth and insight. Honor Book, CCBC Newbery Award Discussion (Ages 11–14)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2002

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