Return to Sender

After his family hires migrant Mexican workers to help save their Vermont farm from foreclosure, eleven-year-old Tyler befriends the oldest daughter, but when he discovers they may not be in the country legally, he realizes that real friendship knows no borders.



12 thoughts on “Return to Sender

  1. T. Gail Pritchard says:

    This week’s novel has a different take on “secrets.” In other novels, the secrets were about the main character; in this novel, the main character has a seret about someone else. Tyler, after returning from a visit to his uncle’s in Boston, discovers his father has hired some farm workers. His grandfather has recently died, his father was in a terrible accident, and his older brother is leaving for college. Tyler’s father explains the only way to keep the farm was to hire extra help and his mother tells him, the workers are a “secret.” At first, Tyler thinks it is because of his father’s pride that the workers are to be kept a secret, but when he meets the daughters of one new hire, he learns they are from Mexico and undocumented. At this point, the law is clear to Tyler–the workers are illegal and should be turned in; but then he realizes if they are turned in, his family will lose the farm. As Tyler’s friendship develops with the girls, Mari in particular, he learns about their fears, their hardships, and their dreams. The secret is no longer about keeping the farm, but about protecting the girls, their father, and the other workers.
    While I was reading this book, the Alabama legislature passed the country’s most stringent regulations regarding illegal immigrants. This new law, known as HB 56, requires schools to check the immigration status of their students, requires employers to check employee’s immigration status, requires the police to check the immigration status of those they stop whom they believe might be illegal immigrants, and makes it against the law to give a ride to an illegal immigrant. There has been a mixed reaction in the state. Lw enforcement agencies state HB 56 would seriously deplete funds and overload jails; religious leaders are concerned about the impact on aiding illegal immigrants; educators worry about their students who will now be denied an education and whose parents might be deported. On the other hand, there are those who say the federal government is not enforcing the law, so the state must take action; they believe illegal immigrants are taking jobs from U.S. citizens and using services that should be reserved only for citizens.
    Alverez humanizes illegal immigrants while HB 56 dehumanizes them. Her novel depicts characters we can identify with and presents a moral and legal delimma, after all, what part of illegal do we not understand? Rather, Alverez pushes the reader to ask why we treat these “neighbor countries and migrant helpers as if they were our worst enemies”? (p. 321). And like Tyler, I suspect many of us will keep “secrets” about our students, neighbors, and friends.

  2. tabitha kline says:

    I agree with Salina, this book gives an accurate depiction of immigrants’ lives. It also brings up critical issues that are not easily solved. Collectively, the moral good prevailed.

  3. Carilyn Cash says:

    I found this book to be very inspirational and informational at the same time. Many times, I thought about the families that are at my school. We know that some are illegal and some have decided to announce that they are illegal, but we accept their students into our classes and we educate them just like the students who are legal. It is not our place as educators to worry about who is legal and who is not, it is our job to make sure that all of the students in our classroom are safe, cared for and that they have access to the curriculum, lessons and activities that are used in our classrooms.
    I have had students who had family members picked up and deported and yet, because most of the students are born here in the U.S., the remaining parent keeps them here.
    Right now is a scary time for Mexicans to be deported back to Mexico. My aide is from Mexico and will not go home right now as it is too dangerous with all of the drug lords and trafficking that is going on. I can just picture that my students feel the same way as Mari and her sisters do, they are scared because they do not know Mexico or at least not the way that it is now!

  4. Celina Lopez says:

    I thought this was an interesting and engaging book. I couldn’t help but love the Three Maria’s. Tyler’s grandma was another fascinating character with a big heart and lots of love to give. I could definitely use this book in my third grade classroom as a read aloud or in reading groups.

  5. Alicia M, Fagan says:

    I feel that Return to sender is going to be a valuable asset to my classroom read alouds. This book raised many political and social issues that I feel will be a great foundation for many classroom discussions. I can also see where this book can be used in developing writing assignments, exploring not only the Mexican culture but also giving students an opportunity to explore their own culture. I also liked that this book talked about astronomy and environmental issues. I can see where science lessons can be integrated into the literacy lessons.

  6. Rae Etta Zuniga says:

    I found this book to be very relevant and current. Many of my brown students have either faced this issue of immigration within their own family or know others who have. I had so many connections throughout the book from both sides of the issue. I can imagine the discussions and writings that my students could create from their connections. The discussion of immigration connects the classroom to vital topics on a national level. I saw a collective group showing a high moral objective, yet there was fear of political retribution.

    I also appreciated the great use of idioms showing the literal interpretation versus the hidden meanings.

  7. Salina says:

    What an accurate depiction of the lives of individuals who are caught between two cultures. Alvarez does a great job describing the life of an immigrant in a foreign land.

  8. Amanda says:

    Return to Sender was a great book! It gave me an understanding of the struggles and fears that many Mexican immigrants go through in America. At all ages they face the fear of “la migra” coming to deport them back to Mexico. They are separated from their families at times and still have a close connection and bond that holds them together.

  9. Elizabeth Grimm says:

    Return to Sender is inspirational. It also shows that through tragedy and hardship human decency prevails. It is hard to understand how families are seperated in a new country and still remain determined to stick it out even though they are aware of the consequences if they are caught.

  10. Theresa says:

    This book gives a great explanation of the fears and trials and tribulations Mexican immagrants go through. It reminded me of La Lina and Borders and Dreams.

  11. Annette Fiedler says:

    Return to sender enabled me to understand the importance of culture and how to incorporate that in the classroom through literature circles. This text desmonstrates ways in which identity, relationships, and the American Dream plays a significant role in the lives of people in today’s society. I was reminded of these cultural differences through this inspirational text.

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