A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Show some of the the issues and hardships illegal immigrants face. Immigration laws are touched on but not fully described.
Explores the issue of illegal immigration from both the farmer and worker perspectives. Hiring illegal immigrants is explained by parents as "not wrong in God's eyes" and "sometimes a country has laws that have nothing to do with what's right or what's best for most of the people involved."
Positive Role Models
A central worry for both main characters is breaking the law and getting caught. Enforcers are presented negatively. The grandmother tells a "white lie" and Tyler fibs to his mom, but these "white lies" are presented as purposeful.
Violence & Scariness
A character dies suddenly of a heart attack and another is involved in a tractor accident in which he gets pinned under it and injured. Both events happen before the start of the story. It's mentioned that Mari's mother went missing and was sold into slavery, but Mari eventually rescued her.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
One sexual reference: "He finally got laid."
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"Ohmigod," "hell," "damn."
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Products & Purchases
Oprah is mentioned, as is McDonald's and Coca-Cola. The youngest sister watches Dora on TV, and the family shops at Walmart.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A mention of fraternity boys with a 12-pack. Also, on Mother's Day, the family buys beer and a bottle of champagne, which makes the grandmother's cheeks turn pink.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Return to Sender explores illegal immigration in a sympathetic way (immigration laws are not fully described and enforcers are presented negatively), as readers come to know the hearts and minds of both the Vermont family and the Mexican family in the story. The issues and moral dilemmas facing the two main characters, Tyler and Mari, are serious and heavy -- they both worry constantly about breaking the law and getting caught, and are wrought with fear and anxiety. It's mentioned that Mari's mother went missing and was sold into slavery, but Mari eventually rescued her.
Is It Any Good?
RETURN TO SENDER is a compassionate narrative that puts a human heart to the hot-button topic of illegal immigration. The story portrays the desire for a better life and how hard work is the means to achieve it. The author captures the intense emotions of both farmer and worker, and tells the story through the questioning innocence of children. However, the main characters -- both 11 years old -- are strapped with enormous emotional burdens and life's adult responsibilities, and the story is laden with their fear and worry.
Parents and educators will find this an important and significant read, but the question remains if kids will actually enjoy reading it.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.