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JIMENA PÉREZ PUEDE VOLAR / JIMENA PÉREZ CAN FLY: A Bilingual Book-in-Verse

June 25, 2020

This book review was written by guest reviewer, Andrea Alaniz from the University of Washington in Seattle.

Argueta, Jorge. November 2019. Pinata Books. Paperback. $10.99. 96 pages. 9781558858893. Ages 8 and Up. Jimena is ten years old and lives in El Salvador with her mother and father. Her mother runs a booth at the local market, like her own mother and grandmother before her. They sell fresh fruit; Jimena is especially fond of the mangoes, and describes the many smells, colors, and sounds of the market in wonderful detail such as “cashew fruits look like little colored birds”.

Arte Público Press March 2017 Author Of The Month: Jorge Argueta ...
Author Jorge Argueta has published  Salvadoran award-winning poet and author of many highly acclaimed bilingual children’s books and short stories, covering themes related to Latino culture and traditions, nature, and the immigrant experience.When gangs threaten a close friend of Jimena’s her parents decide

When gangs threaten a close friend of Jimena’s her parents decide that Jimena and her mother will travel to the United States and live with family they have in Texas. Children are threatened daily where they live in El San Jacinto to join gangs and the fear Jimena lives with is “like a scream with thorns”. Jimena describes the sadness she feels leaving her father, her friends, her dog, and country behind as “the way fruit looks when it is past ripe”. Nevertheless she puts on a brave face under the protection of her mother as they travel first through Guatemala, then to Mexico where they must ride on the top of a huge train called “The Beast”. They travel for many days and when they finally get close to reaching Texas Jimena is separated from her mother at the border and they are put in detention. In

SAN JACINTO VALLEY: Ten arrested in gang sweep – Press Enterprise

detention Jimena is able to ‘fly’ when she reads books and that remind her of home and her parents.

I enjoyed the many beautiful and descriptive verses throughout this book that are simple enough for the youngest readers to understand but powerful enough to evoke strong emotions from readers of all ages. Such as, “My papá starts crying but then he hugs me and gives me the bravery and sun inside his heart” and “We’re little birds alone and sad in a metal cage”. This book is very timely and important because it provides context to those who do not understand the reason people are fleeing their own countries, the enormous dangers they face during this journey and humanizes the heartbreaking consequences of family separation as experienced through Jimena’s eyes. The ending is not a happy one, but it is a real one. We do not know happens to Jimena or if she is reunited with her mother, her future remains uncertain. The reader is left with more questions than answers, which I think is the point.

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