...and now Miguel
by Joseph Krumgold
This book is the winner of the 1954 Newbery medal which, along with Onion John
makes its author one of the few two-time winners of the American Library Associations highest honor for childrens
literature. Like many of its fellow medalists, this story is set in a culture that is different from most American readers. This probably has less to do with
the hispanic background of its characters and more to do with the culture of shepherds and people who make their living
almost entirely from the soil.
Miguel Chavez comes from a large family of shepherds living in northern New Mexico, at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo
mountains. At twelve years old, his dream--his desperate wish, even--is to join his father, uncles, and older brothers in
driving the sheep into the mountains for the summer. But it seems, once again, that he will be left behind--too young, not
So Miguel tries catching everyones attention by being as useful as possible, but this backfires. His only hope now is to
pray hard to the patron saint of all farmers everywhere, who is also his villages particular saint. And wouldnt you know,
San Ysidro comes through for him, but in an unexpected way, taking something Miguel loves away in return for granting him
his hearts desire. Somehow this turns out heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time, particularly in the scene that
stands at the heart of the whole book, in which Miguel and his brother Gabriel work out what has happened and why it
Its a fine example of the coming-of-age story told in the simple, somewhat crude but often hauntingly poetic, diction of
its young hispanic narrator. Its also a very interesting lesson in the realities of farm life, including descriptions of
lambing time, sheep shearing, and looking for lost sheep. But finally, it hashes out a philosophy of life that is at once
naïve and wise; doubting and believing; religious and superstitious; and most importantly, a breakthrough from boyish
selfishness to thinking about others--from the family circle to the wide, wide world.
Recommended Age: 8+
September 3, 2004
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