Miguel Lost and Found: Journey to Santa Fe
Barbara Beasley Murphy
Lexile: 600, suitable for children reading at a third grade level or above.
Perfect bound, 132 pages , 5.5" x 8.5"
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About the Book
Miguel Rivera and his family are driven by hope as they wade through the Rio Grande to a new world in the United States. Though the life they create in El Paso seems to be working, sudden violence forces them to leave, and leads to unexpected challenges and adventures—and lessons—for Miguel.
This heartfelt novel follows young Miguel from his illegal river crossing at age five as he must face a variety of social and emotional traumas by the time he reaches middle school. The family takes in an orphan girl, and then grows to include twin sisters for Miguel as well. When his father disappears after leaving Texas to set up a new home for them all in New Mexico, mother and son become partners in keeping the rest of the family together and hopeful. When the move comes, it brings encounters for Miguel with a gang of dangerous bullies but also new friends who help him discover the dignity of his ancestry as well as a new inner strength.
In this award-winning middle-grade novel, Barbara Beasley Murphy paints a fascinating picture of an undocumented Mexican immigrant and the discrimination and other hardships he must deal with growing up between two cultures.
From Chapter 1
Thirty-five miles east of the bridge over the Rio Grande, a man in a heavy sweatshirt, jeans, and worn-out sneakers waded into the water. Crístobal Rivera was carrying his son on his shoulders, tightening a thin blanket around him.
Miguel Rivera was five years old, just like Joey Jeter Cortés on the other side of the border. His father steadied Miguel with a hand on his bare knee; the other held his wife’s hand. Rosa was shaking with fear. Little Miguel pressed his lips between his teeth. The only sound as they moved through the water was swisha swisha swisha.
Rising, the water reached Miguel’s shoes, soaking his sneakers and socks, wetting his feet. He could feel Papa shivering. Suddenly there was a big splash. Mama had tripped and fallen into the river. But suddenly again, her head rose out of the water. She stood up.
She didn’t say a thing, Miguel thought. His mother was a talker, always shouting what she thought. But not tonight! This was different. Miguel pinched his own lips tighter.
They stopped to let her catch her breath. The swisha swisha swisha stopped too. The desert air smelled of chemicals and engine exhaust and the river.
A coyote howled. Rosa gasped. Under Miguel’s legs, his father’s shoulders stiffened. His mother’s teeth were chattering loud enough for Miguel to hear. He pictured the wild coyote running up and down the riverbank, its ears back, neck fur bristling.
There was no moon and just a spray of six tiny stars behind them. Ahead lay a thick darkness. A gray line in the eastern sky was like a scribble Miguel had made.
Slowly the Riveras moved forward.
“The only way we can cross the Rio Grande and keep the Border Patrol from catching us and slamming us into jail is to be soft as light on water, silent as the fishes swimming in it,” Miguel’s father had said before they started out at three o’clock this Monday afternoon. He said the words in Spanish, then in the English he had learned working at Fort Bliss in El Paso before he married Rosa. She and Miguel promised they understood the need for absolutely no talking.
In their wood pallet and cardboard house without water or electricity, they had planned their illegal move to the United States. They had taken a long bus ride from Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, the city connected to the guarded bridge.
They were leaving Mexico to begin a new life. Hungry and poor, Miguel’s parents could not find work in their country. There was no way they could enter the U.S. legally. They believed there were jobs they could do well in the U.S., that they’d earn enough to live on and feel safe again.
Crossing the Rio Grande now, they heard the coyote’s yelp again.
Funny there’s only one, Miguel thought. Coyotes ran in packs, yelping and scrapping over prey. Was the coyote alone on the riverbank that they were coming to but could not see? If it is, Miguel thought, it must be starving.
Coyotes had packed the rising hills near his tía’s house in Zacatecas. They preyed on chickens, rabbits, and even dogs. Miguel had watched a man shoot a coyote dead once. He carried it home and cut off its tail. In the market at Miguel’s aunt’s stand, it sold for sixty pesos.
And then Tía Yolanda Ana had died of pneumonia. The house that Miguel’s family had lived in with her had been taken back by the owners. There was no place for la familia Rivera to live anymore.
Miguel’s feet were cold. In the sky, the line had grown as wide as his finger. Papa’s breathing was harder, his shoulders and neck as stiff as a bull’s. They waded out onto land, and the water ran down their legs in rivulets.
“Gracias a Dios! Thanks to God,” his father whispered, walking straight ahead as if he could see the way in front of them. They were moving fast. And then running. Miguel, bouncing on his father’s shoulders, held tight.
They rushed into darkness, his mother’s and father’s shoes thudding on the ground. With an ankle twisted in her fall in the river, Rosa tripped and fell again. She was up and running immediately.
Hard, rapid breathing was the only sound. Miguel, clinging to Papa’s neck, jumped at the whine of an unknown animal to the right. His father turned and ran in that direction. Mama, behind them, was panting in the struggle to keep up. Miguel’s eyes strained against the dark. Is she following? Did something get her?
And then they heard a low whistle. Two deep notes followed by three high ones. His father, recognizing it, took a deep, deep breath. His mother, catching up, let out a moan of relief.
Miguel bit his lip when he heard his mother’s “Aaahhh!”
The whistle signaled that their amiga, their “friend for the crossing,” was there. They recognized the notes of the whistle. It belonged to Zacatecas. All the compadres and comadres there used the same whistle to call one another. If you heard it, you’d know it was your friend or relative calling. Sometimes it signaled danger. Tonight it signaled rescue.
From Chapter 20
Miguel had dozed off when he felt the bench tilt back suddenly and hit the ground with a bang. His eyes flew open and he was looking at the Wrench and the red-haired kid. Miguel squinted at the redhead’s face. It looked familiar.
“Hey! What d’you want? I ain’t bothering you!” he yelled, trying to get up and sliding off into the grass instead.
“We’re sanitation. Cleaning up the Plaza. Gotta go—you’re trash,” the Bear said, bumping hard into Miguel’s crumpled legs.
The Wrench leaned down and jammed a finger into Miguel’s chest.
“Ow!” Miguel yelled. Caught by surprise, he managed to squirm away and jump up. “Leave me alone!”
People walking through the Plaza veered off to avoid the gang of boys. The three surrounded Miguel, menacing him.
He put up his hands. “Okay, okay. I’m outta here.”
Breathing hard, Miguel turned and walked toward the street in front of the Palace of the Governors with as much dignity as he could muster. It wasn’t a whole lot. When he peered back, the gang was watching him. He ran into the street and dodged a slow-moving gray pickup going west and a white convertible headed east. He dashed under the covered portal of the museum and bumped into a girl looking at the Indians’ wares.
“Hey, can you please be careful?” the girl said. Her voice sounded brave, he thought.
But Miguel didn’t answer. He couldn’t. He saw the gang coming after him. He ran around the corner to Washington Street, wondering where to hide. He was too new to the town. Passing the one-story buildings on the left, he saw a ramp to an underground garage in a taller office building. He zoomed down the ramp. They’ll think I disappeared into thin air. Ee-wow!
The dim garage had only six or seven cars. It was Sunday, with parking in it free to the public. Miguel’s heart sank when he realized there were no guards. As he ran toward the exit far across the big garage, he heard shouts and spun around.
Crouched like wild animals prowling, the three boys came at him.
He dodged behind a green car and ducked down, ready to roll underneath. Two of them pounced on top of him. The Wrench grabbed his arm and twisted it as far as it would go. Miguel screamed. The Bear shoved his open palm into Miguel’s nose.
“Ow!” Miguel cried, tears popping. “Let go! Let go of me!”
“Mojado! Go back where ya came from!” said the Bear.
“Okay! Let me go! Please!”
The redhead yanked off Miguel’s panuelo and ground it under his shoe. “I know you!” he said with the voice of triumph.
Miguel stared back in recognition too.
“You’re Miguel uh . . . .” the boy said. “I got it! Guys! Meet Miguel from hell.”
“And I know you! Joey Jeter Cortés! The biggest poop in Texas!”
Joey Jeter was stunned.
Miguel managed to yank his aching arm away from the Wrench and shoved him against a car. His head smacked the glass, and the Wrench yelled, “Ow!”
The other boys tried to pound Miguel’s back, but he took off running, nearly colliding with two women. They gasped when he flew past with blood on his face.
“I’m calling the police!” one of the women announced in a furious voice.
The pursuers were stopped for a moment.
Miguel reached the top of the exit ramp on Lincoln Avenue and ran back toward the Plaza. He dodged passersby on the tree-lined street and came to the Palace of the Governors. It spanned the whole block.
Albert’s Dad said the Palace is public. Does that mean I can go in?
Wiping blood from his face with his shirtsleeve, he raced, panting, past the Indian artists selling in the cool shadows under the roof.
The doors are open!
He flew into the Palace of the Governors.
A Hispanic man as tall and thin as Miguel’s father stood in the vestibule. His dark eyes smiled a welcome.
“I want to see the museum, sir, please?” Miguel said.
“Sorry, my boy,” the guard said regretfully when he realized Miguel was alone. “Children under sixteen are not allowed inside the museum without an adult.”
About the Author
Ron Chapman believes there are no self-made men or women. “All I have and all I am came from people and circumstances for which I cannot claim credit,” he says. “That includes being drawn by something I can’t even name, though one expert calls it magnetic center. While I don’t define myself much anymore as the product of any specific hardship, I have been drawn in ways I could not resist. Had I not been drawn, I could never have succeeded in the face of some daunting life challenges.”
Praise for Miguel Lost and Found: Journey to Santa Fe
A heartfelt novel. A lot happens in very few pages. The many interesting issues that are raised—including the guarded social interactions of illegal residents and the slave labor into which adults are still forced today—are unusual to find in fiction for this age group.
— Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley, CA, Public Library
Murphy’s touching portrayal of Miguel and his family’s devotion and courage to make a new life for themselves in New Mexico will have an impact on young readers while perhaps giving them a little better understanding of Mexican/U.S. history and illegal immigration.
—Donald R. Gallo, editor, Join In: Multiethnic Short Stories by Outstanding Writers for Young Adults and On the Fringe
I just finished the book. I couldn’t keep my nose out of it. When I sat down to read, it felt like I was in a whole different dimension.
—Andrew Scott, 13, Pearl River High School, Pearl River, N.Y.
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