Under the Same SkyUnder the Same Sky
By Cynthia DeFelice
Published by Square Fish

“This look at migrant workers carefully lays out many of the issues involved, including the conflicts inherent in the immigration laws, and readers will come away with a new understanding and sympathy for these workers.” –Paula Rohrlick, KILATT

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For his fourteenth birthday, Joe Pedersen wants a motorbike that costs nearly a thousand dollars. But his mom says the usual birthday gift is fifty dollars, and his dad wants Joe to earn the rest of the money himself and “find out what a real day’s work feels like.” Angry that his father doesn’t think he’s up to the job, Joe joins the Mexican laborers who come to his father’s farm each summer. Manuel, the crew boss, is only sixteen, yet highly regarded by the other workers and the Pedersen family. Joe’s resentment grows when his father treats Manuel as an equal. Compared with Manuel, Joe knows nothing about planting and hoeing cabbage and picking strawberries. But he toughs out the long, grueling days in the hot sun, determined not only to make money but to gain the respect of his stern, hardworking father. Joe soon learns about the problems and fears the Mexicans live with every day, and, before long, thanks to Manuel, his beautiful cousin Luisa, and the rest of the crew, Joe comes to see the world in a whole different way.

Reviews & Accolades
Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year, 2004

“Previously insensitive to the plight of the migrants, Joe begins to grasp the hardships, uncertainty, loyalty, and courage of these laborers who are often ridiculed and threatened by his peers and other whites in the community…With sensitivity and self-deprecating humor and reflection, Joe narrates a well-paced story that illuminates the need for understanding, tolerance, and discussion of the role and rights of migrant workers in the United States.” –Gerry Larson, School Library Journal

“Message drives the plot, and the lesson is heavily spelled out. But Joe’s immediate first-person narrative humanizes the workers, including the “illegal aliens,” and brings the reader close to their bitter struggle: the backbreaking, boring, sometimes dangerous work; and, for some, the constant dread of the police…There’s much to talk about here, especially if kids read this with Francisco Jimenez’s The Circuit (1997), which tells the story from the migrant workers’ viewpoint.” –Hazel Rochman, Booklist

“Despite a heavy-handed start and a somewhat predictable outcome, DeFelice’s story about a 14-year-old who learns to respect the migrant workers on his father’s farm offers much to absorb and stimulate readers…DeFelice shakes up convention, however, in a story line that draws attention to contradictory and confusing government policies regarding migrant workers. Without too much rigging of the scenes, she engineers a dramatic climax that allows Joe to demonstrate real courage-and that will let readers grapple with the notion that right and wrong are not always easily identifiable.” –Publisher’s Weekly

DeFelice presents the plight of migrant workers in a realistic New York State setting. Readers will get a better understanding of the complexity of the migrant worker issue and the importance of these workers. They will relate to Joe’s young adult viewpoint, his interests, and the tension DeFelice aptly builds throughout the story. Joe evolves from someone totally clueless about the situation to someone willing to break the law to help others who live ‘under the same sky.'” –Sharon Salluzzo, Children’s Literature

“As Joe makes friends with his father’s workers, he discovers that sometimes a person has to do the wrong thing for the right reason. DeFelice’s characters are believable if a little wise beyond their years. Joe is a resolute, likeable character, and it is satisfying to watch him grow over the course of the book. He shows admirable bravery when he stands up to his friends. Important social issues are addressed without the narrative becoming preachy. There are lessons, but they are never sugarcoated, nor does the book hit the reader over the head with morality…This story will make readers think twice about their own prejudices.” –VOYA

This look at migrant workers carefully lays out many of the issues involved, including the conflicts inherent in the immigration laws, and readers will come away with a new understanding and sympathy for these workers. This is a moving tale, with a valuable message…” –Paula Rohrlick, KILATT

“…DeFelice does deal successfully with contemporary issues about immigration and questions about civil disobedience at a level readers will understand…Suspense and romance keep the story going, at the same time that DeFelice conveys the vital work of migrant workers in US agriculture and draws attention to problems with immigration policies…this will serve those looking for an exploration of these issues and a larger role in fiction for migrant workers who are all too ignored in literature and real life.” –Kirkus Reviews

Groups Represented
Mexican American

Migrant life, multicultural friendships, illegal immigration, racial discrimination

Upstate New York

Author Research

Engagement Projects
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