Return to Sender by Julia Alvarez is an award winning novel written in 2009. The Paquettes run a dairy farm in Vermont but are in danger of losing the farm after their father's accident. The Cruz family is from Mexico and has immigrated to the United States in search of a better life. The story is told through the eyes of two 11-year-olds, Tyler Paquette and Mari Cruz. When Tyler realizes that the Cruzes are undocumented and not legally permitted to work in the United States, he feels conflicted. As the story evolves and he befriends Mari, he begins to see that the issue is much more complex with real people and families at the heart of it. This important book helps students build a deeper understanding of immigration and migrant workers and how friendship can break down stereotypes and build bridges to a better world.
Vocabulary is the knowledge of words and what they mean. Learning and using new vocabulary is something that continues and expands throughout our lives, and is way more than simply looking up and memorizing a definition. Vocabulary is acquired through direct and indirect exposure, and explicit instruction using specific words, content, and strategies.
Have students define and illustrate vocabulary from Return to Sender by Julia Alvarez with a spider map!
La Migra is the Spanish word for immigration. When Mari uses these words, she means "immigration officials" or ICE: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. ICE is a federal law enforcement agency under the department of Homeland Security founded in 2003. ICE seeks out immigrants who have entered the United States illegally and deports them back to their country of origin.
La Golondrina is Spanish for swallow, a type of bird. It is also the name of a famous Mexican song that Mari and her family enjoy. The swallow migrates from Mexico to the United States and back every year. The song talks about longing for one's home like the swallow or golondrina flying across North America.
Estrella is the Spanish word for stars. Tyler introduces Mari to astronomy and their friendship forms over a love of stargazing. Mari suggests that Tyler name the farm stars and swallows: Estrella & Golondrina Farm. Even though Mexico and Vermont are far apart, they are both under the same stars.