Crossing the Wire by Will Hobbs. (Grades 5-8.)
Ever since his father died, Victor Flores has been the man of the house. He plants and sells corn to support himself and his mother and younger siblings. It's a hard life and they're just scraping by, but when the price of corn falls disastrously, Victor knows he has no choice but to try and get across the border to El Norte where he can make enough money to support his family. It won't be easy. Victor doesn't have the money to hire a coyote to sneak him across and there are miles of desert between him and the American towns that he hopes will be his ticket to work and money. But Victor's got to try. This is his family's only hope.
This was an adventure story with lots of action and characters that had tough decisions to make. I wouldn't expect anything less from Will Hobbs.
In the author's note, Mr. Hobbs writes,
In the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the majority of illegal crossings along the U.S./Mexican border were deflected from populated areas to the most remote deserts and mountains of Arizona, with more and more people dying every year. I was moved to learn all I could, and to write a story that would put a human face on the complex and controversial subject of illegal immigration. (pg 215)
This story certainly does put a human face on illegal immigration. It's sure to spark discussions and debates just as it's sure to entertain. There's hardly a break in the action as Victor doesn't have an easy time crossing the border. Some people betray him while others provide unexpected kindnesses. Small twists and turns in the plot make this an enjoyable read and the sizzling desert landscape burns through every page.
I'd recommend this one to fans of adventure stories and if kids are interested in other stories of border crossings, hand them La Linea by Ann Jaramillo and Libertad by Alma Fullerton.
Read MotherReader's thoughts on it and check out Will Hobbs's website for more info about him and his books. HarperCollins offers a teachers' guide (link opens a PDF) for the book, which includes classroom activities and discussion guides.