Jimena Pérez puede volar / Jimena Pérez Can Fly
By Jorge Argueta
Publication Date: November 30, 2019
Format: Trade Paperback
Imprint: Piñata Books
Ten-year-old Jimena Pérez loves life with her parents in El Salvador. They sell fruit at the market, just like her grandmother and great grandmother did. “Fruits / are a blessing / like you, Jimena,” her mother tells her.
But one day a group of boys threaten her friend Rosenda at school. “You know / what will happen / to your family / if you don’t join us.” Jimena’s parents, afraid gangs will try to recruit her too, decide she must go to the United States with her mother. She is excited and fearful, and doesn’t want to leave her father, friends and dog Sultán. “I felt sad / the way fruit looks / when it’s past ripeness.” By bus, train and on foot, mother and daughter make their way north, until one night, bright lights fill the sky and men in green uniforms rip Jimena from her mother.
Imprisoned with children from El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico, Jimena and the others cry for their parents. One boy repeats over and over, “My father’s name is Marcos / He is in Los Angeles.” A box full of books brings her some solace, reminding her of the ones donated to kids at the market in El Salvador. “The letters kiss me / like my mama’s words / like my papa’s words / I am a little bird / Nothing can stop me / I can fly.”
In this poignant narrative poem for kids ages 10-15, award-winning Salvadoran poet Jorge Argueta movingly captures the fear that drives so many Central Americans to flee their countries and the anguish created by separating children from their parents at the US border. Putting a human face on the millions of people who flee their homelands each year, this book will help young people understand the difficulties of migration and leaving behind all that is dear.
“Argueta tells the story of 10-year-old Jimena Pérez, who unexpectedly journeys from her home in El Salvador to the U.S. Told in a sequence of short poems first in Spanish and consequently in English, this poignant story introduces Jimena’s home through her senses. A poignant, sincere, empathetic glimpse at family border separation.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Written with heartbreaking honesty, the lyrical poems provide insight into the intimate world of a young girl who loves her life and her family, but who, like so many others, must leave everything behind in order to reach a better—and safer—life. VERDICT A necessary title for public and school libraries. Argueta presents a candid look at the reality many children and families face and the difficult choices they have to make when trying to change their lives.”—School Library Journal (starred review)
“Argueta deftly captures the innocence of a child besieged by terrifying and uncertain circumstances. Despite a heartbreaking separation, the message is ultimately hopeful, as Jimena envisions herself flying, a hope readers will carry for all the children whose experiences mirror the protagonist’s.”—Booklist
JORGE ARGUETA is a prize-winning poet and author of more than twenty children’s picture books, including Una película en mi almohada / A Movie in My Pillow (Children’s Book Press, 2001); Guacamole: Un poema para cocinar / A Cooking Poem (Groundwood Books, 2016); Agua, Agüita / Water, Little Water (Piñata Books, 2017); and Somos como las nubes / We Are Like the Clouds (Groundwood Books, 2016), which won the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award and was named to USBBY’s Outstanding International Book List, the ALA Notable Children’s Books and the Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choices. His poetry collection, En carne propia: Memoria poética / Flesh Wounds: A Poetic Memoir (Arte Público Press, 2017), focuses on his experiences with civil war and living in exile. The California Association for Bilingual Education honored him with its Courage to Act Award and his trilingual picture book, Agua, Agüita / Water, Little Water, won the inaugural Campoy-Ada Award in Children’s Poetry given by the Academia Norteamericana de la Lengua Española. A Pipil Nahua Indian, Jorge is also the founder of The Library of Dreams in his native El Salvador, a non-profit organization that promotes literacy in both rural and metropolitan areas. Jorge divides his time between San Francisco, California, and El Salvador.