In Santiago’s Road Home, Alexandra Diaz tells how twelve-year-old Santiago makes it across the border between Mexico and the U.S. only to be captured by the Border Patrol and placed in a detention center. Santiago has a traumatic family history as an orphan who is passed between his grandmother who abuses him and an aunt who is unkind. When the aunt sends him back to live with his grandmother, Santiago decides to live on the street. Fortunately, he meets Maríe Delores who gives him food and offers to take him to the U.S. with her and her young daughter, Alegría, since Maríe Delores has a sister in the U.S. and plans on living with her. Santiago is able to help the two as they journey to the border. Their relationship develops and he comes to consider them his sisters.
In crossing the border into the desert, the three become ill with dehydration and are unable to continue. When the Border Patrol finds them, they are separated; the two children go a detention center and Maríe Delores to the hospital. A major part of the story then concentrates on Santiago’s time in the detention center where he is packed into a cold, stark room filled with other boys. The boys sleep on the concrete floor with only small metallic blankets to keep them warm. The guards are mostly unkind and the boys are poorly treated and fed. The only positive thing for Santiago is that he is able to go to school for the first time and learns to read. After six months, Maríe Delores is able take him home. It was a long process to get the paper work needed to release him. She had to find his grandmother in Mexico to get his birth certificate, then she had to apply to bring Santiago home with her. The ending is hopeful, as Santiago will be with a loving family for the first time and be able to go to school.
This is the first novel for middle school children that tells the horrible story of how immigrant children are treated in detention centers after they cross the border. It would make an excellent read aloud for fifth grade through eighth and can be used to help guide children in researching news articles about the detention centers and the court cases about them. The author often uses Spanish words that makes the extensive glossary very useful. Be sure to read the Author’s Note in the back and connect children with the excellent list of resources.
These other titles will enrich the reader’s understanding of the journey taken by so many people from Mexico and Central America: Beast Rider as well as Rabbit and Coyote, both by Tony Johnston, Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote by Duncan Tonatiuh, and The Only Road also by Alexandra Diaz. -Recommended by Marilyn Carpenter, Professor Emeritus Eastern Washington University.
Title: Santiago’s Road Home
Author: Alexandra Diaz
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
PubDate: May 5, 2020
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