Title: The Circuit: Stories from the Life of a Migrant Child
Author: Francisco Jiménez
Guided reading level: Z (late 5th grade)
Review by Gillian Cohen
This moving collection of short stories from Francisco Jiménez (perhaps better known for his touching picture books, such as La mariposa (The Butterfly)) based on his own experiences, provides a window onto a childhood spent following the crop circuit through California. The stories touch on a variety of experiences that would be familiar to many of our students (poverty, displacement, the difficulty of making new friends, learning English) as well others that students may or may not immediately identify with, such as crossing the border illegally, fear of la migra and deportation, and the experience of having members of one’s family on both sides of the border. For students who do not see themselves reflected in Jiménez’s characters, the stories can help them better understand and appreciate the lives of migrant children and language learners.
A few stories in the collection stand out as real gems. “El Ángel de Oro” is poetic and lends itself to the exploration of metaphorical language and deep analysis in upper grades. “Inside Out” tells the story of the narrator’s first days in his English-only school when he speaks only Spanish. It promotes empathy for students who speak a language other than the one(s) used in the classroom and can help language learners themselves understand that they are not alone in their experiences. Finally, “Moving Still” highlights the changing roles of family members following immigration, a typical source of stress in immigrant families.
The stories are independent but intertwined, and lend themselves to use in a whole class read aloud from 4th grade up through middle school (and beyond).