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Gr. 5-8. When Miguel, 15, leaves San Jacinto, Mexico, to join his parents in California, his sister, Elena, 13, secretly follows him. Together with their guides they barely survive a harrowing journey through the desert and across la linea, the border. A gripping contemporary survival adventure, this spare first novel is also a heart-wrenching family story of courage, betrayal, and love. The harsh facts of the border crossing are immediate--the horrors of dehydration, the soldiers' violence, corruption, and the migrants' terrifying, often disastrous attempts to hop the trains. Miguel's first-person narrative tells it without romanticism. The young people are brave, but they are angry at each other and at their parents, who left them seven years before. They do make it, but always there is the reality of those who do not. Jaramillo teaches migrant kids in California, and in her final notes, she says her story is fiction, but it is based on real events. Spanish is a natural part of the text; there is no glossary, and no need for one. Add this to the list of books in the Core Collection: The New Immigration Story in the August 2005 issue of Booklist. --Hazel Rochman Copyright 2006 Booklist

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Gr 5 Up-Six years ago, Miguel and Elena's mother and father left Mexico and crossed la l'nea into California. On the morning of Miguel's 15th birthday, he receives a note from his father telling him that it is time for him to join them. Miguel is sad to leave his grandmother and sister behind, but is excited about being reunited with his parents. Unbeknownst to Miguel, Elena, 13, disguises herself and joins him on the difficult journey. They are robbed, threatened, and almost perish in a desperate trek across the desert. The pacing of the plot is quick and driven, and the characters are realistically drawn. They interact as true siblings do, sometimes with love and sometimes not. Cultural and geographical background information is expertly woven into the novel. The author creates a mood of desperation and anxiety as the story unfolds and Miguel and Elena discover that crossing la l'nea will forever change the way they look at themselves and the world. Although the epilogue illuminates their lives as adults, the novel ends abruptly, leaving readers without the anticipated emotional release of their reunion with their parents.-Melissa Christy Buron, Epps Island Elementary, Houston, TX (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.