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Review: The Circuit by Francisco Jimenez

Title: The Circuit: stories from the life of a migrant child
Author: Francisco Jimenez
Year Published: 1997

Genre: YA Short Stories
Pages: 134
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Geography Connection (my Google Reading map): USA (California)

FTC Disclosure: I borrowed this book from my school library

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): These independent but intertwined stories follow a migrant family through their circuit, from picking cotton and strawberries to topping carrots--and back again--over a number of years. As it moves from one labor camp to the next, the little family of four grows into ten. Impermanence and poverty define their lives. But with faith, hope, and back-breaking work, the family endures.

Review: Living in southern California I feel like I have a sense of what life is like for migrant workers. I see them stopped over in the agricultural fields of Oxnard, Santa Maria, and other towns along the coast. We have some migrant students in our schools, who come and go with the seasons. However, reading this book gave me a look into life on the circuit that I didn't really understand.

Panchito, the main character (the author), is about 8 years old in the first story and entering high school in the last one. The stories show his resiliency, his fears, his struggles, and his frustrations. Just as he gets excited about school and learning English or the trumpet, he comes home to see the boxes packed for another move. He has to hide in the fields when the school bus goes by or la migra (immigration) comes to check on the workers.

The book is well written, pulls the reader in without using pity, and really gives a sense of what life was like for the author and his family as they worked the California fields. How did the bosses treat them? Where do migrant families live? How do they find work? All this and more are discussed in these fascinating tales.

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