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Annotation: 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.
Catalog Number: #33214
Format: Perma-Bound Edition from Publisher's Hardcover
All Formats: Search
Common Core/STEAM: Common Core Common Core
Publisher: Random House
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition Date: 2009
Pages: 325 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 0-375-85838-5 Perma-Bound: 0-605-23173-7
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-0-375-85838-3 Perma-Bound: 978-0-605-23173-3
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2008023520
Dimensions: 21 cm.
Language: English
Reviews:
ALA Booklist
With quiet drama, Alvarez tells a contemporary immigration story through the alternating viewpoints of two young people in Vermont. After 11-year-old Tyler's father is injured in a tractor accident, the family is in danger of losing their dairy farm. Desperate for help, Tyler's family employs Mari's family, who are illegal migrant Mexican workers. Mari writes heartrending letters and diary entries, especially about Mamá, who has disappeared during a trip to Mexico to visit Mari's dying abuelita. Is Mamá in the hands of the border-crossing "coyotes"? Have they hurt her? Will Homeland Security (la migra) raid the farm? The plot is purposive, with messages about the historical connections between migrant workers today and the Indians' displacement, the Underground Railroad, and earlier immigrants seeking refuge. But the young people's voices make for a fast read; the characters, including the adults, are drawn with real complexity; and the questions raised about the meaning of patriotism will spark debate.
Horn Book
After an accident injures Tyler's father, their farm is in danger of folding--until a family of Mexican immigrants (some illegal) comes to help. Tyler befriends Mari, the oldest daughter, and helps the family reunite with Mari's mother, to whom Mari writes heartfelt letters. The various relationships are complicated and nuanced, and the issues Alvarez raises will give readers pause.
Kirkus Reviews
Tyler is the son of generations of Vermont dairy farmers. Mari is the Mexican-born daughter of undocumented migrant laborers whose mother has vanished in a perilous border crossing. When Tyler's father is disabled in an accident, the only way the family can afford to keep the farm is by hiring Mari's family. As Tyler and Mari's friendship grows, the normal tensions of middle-school boy-girl friendships are complicated by philosophical and political truths. Tyler wonders how he can be a patriot while his family breaks the law. Mari worries about her vanished mother and lives in fear that she will be separated from her American-born sisters if la migra comes. Unashamedly didactic, Alvarez's novel effectively complicates simple equivalencies between what's illegal and what's wrong. Mari's experience is harrowing, with implied atrocities and immigration raids, but equally full of good people doing the best they can. The two children find hope despite the unhappily realistic conclusions to their troubles, in a story which sees the best in humanity alongside grim realities. Though it lacks nuance, still a must-read. (Fiction. 9-11)
Publishers Weekly

After Tyler’s father’s accident, his family hires undocumented Mexican workers in a last-ditch effort to keep their Vermont farm. Despite his reservations, Tyler soon bonds with a worker’s daughter, who is in his sixth-grade class. His problems seem small compared to Mari’s: her family fears deportation, and her mother has been missing since re-entering the States months ago. While this novel is certainly issue-driven, Alvarez (Before We Were Free) focuses on her main characters, mixing in Mexican customs and the touching letters that Mari writes to her mother, grandmother and even the U.S. president. Readers get a strong sense of Tyler’s growing maturity, too, as he navigates complicated moral choices. Plot developments can be intense: Mari’s uncle lands in jail, and her mother turns out to have been kidnapped and enslaved during her crossing. Some characters and sentiments are over-the-top, but readers will be moved by small moments, as when Tyler sneaks Mari’s letter to her imprisoned uncle, watching as the man puts his palm on the glass while Tyler holds up the letter from the other side. A tender, well-constructed book. Ages 8–12. (Jan.)

School Library Journal
Gr 47 Sixth-grader Tyler Paquette lives in a dairy-farming community in Vermont. His father was injured in a tractor accident and must now turn to undocumented Mexican laborers to run the farm. Thus, a trailer on the property soon becomes home to the Cruz familysixth-grader Mari, her two younger sisters, father, and two uncles, all needing work to survive and living with fear of la migra . They have had no word on Mari's mother, missing now for several months. Tyler and Mari share an interest in stargazing, and their extended families grow close over the course of one year with holiday celebrations and shared gatherings. Third-person chapters about Tyler alternate with Mari's lengthy, unmailed letters to her mother and diary entries. Touches of folksy humor surface in the mismatched romance of Tyler's widowed Grandma and cranky Mr. Rossetti. When "coyotes" contact Mr. Cruz and set terms for his wife's freedom, Tyler secretly loans the man his savings, then renegotiates a promised birthday trip in order to accompany Mari to North Carolina to help rescue her abused mother. When immigration agents finally raid the farm and imprison both Cruz parents, it signals an end to the "el norte" partnership, but not the human connections. This timely novel, torn right from the newspaper headlines, conveys a positive message of cooperation and understanding. Susan W. Hunter, Riverside Middle School, Springfield, VT
Word Count: 71,721
Reading Level: 5.5
Interest Level: 4-7
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 5.5 / points: 11.0 / quiz: 127752 / grade: Middle Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:5.7 / points:18.0 / quiz:Q46171
Lexile: 890L
Guided Reading Level: Z
Fountas & Pinnell: Z

After Tyler's father is injured in a tractor accident, his family is forced to hire migrant Mexican workers to help save their Vermont farm from foreclosure. Tyler isn’t sure what to make of these workers. Are they undocumented? And what about the three daughters, particularly Mari, the oldest, who is proud of her Mexican heritage but also increasingly connected her American life. Her family lives in constant fear of being discovered by the authorities and sent back to the poverty they left behind in Mexico. Can Tyler and Mari find a way to be friends despite their differences?

In a novel full of hope, but no easy answers, Julia Alvarez weaves a beautiful and timely story that will stay with readers long after they finish it.


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