Mexican White Boy by Matt de la Pena. New York: Random House Children's Books, 2008
I chose to read this book for two reasons. I was very impressed with Last Stop on Market Street, Matt de la Pena's Newbery winner this year. Here is a picture book that won the Newbery medal! It is a heart-warming story with an important message for all of us. I enjoyed asking middle years students why they thought the picture book was worthy of a medal usually given to chapter books. They had no difficulty providing reasons. So I decided I needed to read more of de la Pena's work.
Secondly, I am a follower and proponent of #weneeddiversebooks. Just the title, Mexican White Boy, made me realize that this book would provide me with further insight to a mixed racial identity. Students need to see themselves in books they read, but also they need to have books that are a window into other situations.
Danny grew up in San Diego, close to the Mexican border, to a father who is Mexican and a mother who is white. His school classmates consider him Mexican because of his skin colour, but his Hispanic relatives consider him white because he cannot speak Spanish. Danny's father is no longer living with the family, but Danny spends the summer with his Dad's relatives to help him in his search for his own identity.
Danny is also s remarkable baseball player--when he is on his own on the diamond. When trying out for his school team, he is unable to show his pitching skill and the coach suggests he comes back the next year. Over the summer baseball is his ticket to friendship and acceptance among the kids he meets.
The story unfolds in a way that keeps the reader turning the pages. The characters are well developed and deal with struggles that are very typical for teens. Danny is a very likeable character and I was cheering for him both in his baseball dilemmas and in his personal struggles. I felt some of the other characters are deserving of their own stories. The book will cause the reader, teen or adult, to really question why parents or adults don't talk more to their kids.I think the book will be great for conversation starters about what really matters to young people.
This book would be a good addition to your school or classroom library. People who like baseball stories will relate to Danny, but the novel is an intense, important story of finding one's identity. It will also be useful to compare cultures and differences, but also the sameness of young people no matter where they grow up.
Here is a book trailer to introduce the book