Study Guide

The Circuit

By Francisco Jiménez

The Circuit Introduction

Here's the situation, Shmoopsters: When Francisco and his family move from Mexico to California, they take a huge leap of faith. And by huge, we mean like, as big as you can possible imagine… and then some. Armed with little more than high hopes for the future, they're crossing their fingers that dreamy California can make their, well, dreams come true.

But right from the start, Francisco and his family hit some rough patches. Okay, make that a lot of rough patches. They move around a ton in order to make a living as migrant fieldworkers (meaning they pick crops in different places at different times of the year), and you can bet that all that moving and work means there are loads of challenges along the way.

And did we mention that Francisco is growing from a kid to a teenager in the middle of this whole journey? Yep, he's got a lot on his plate. And that makes this book chock full of tales on every page.

When Francisco Jiménez published The Circuit back in 1997, it was a pretty rare young adult read. And we're not the only ones who think so. It's won tons of awards and honors, and was even named an American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults.

But wait—it gets better. Not only is this book seriously interesting, it's also based on real life events. Actually, each of Francisco's experiences was inspired by Jiménez's own life as a migrant worker. And that's not only pretty neat, but also the sort of true story that doesn't get told very often. Plus there are two sequels—Breaking Through and Reaching Out—so you can learn what happens during the rest of Francisco's wild adventure after The Circuit ends.

We should probably warn you to buckle up, though. This journey can be a seriously fascinating—and bumpy—ride.

What is The Circuit About and Why Should I Care?

Life throws out a lot of curveballs—it's just a fact—and this means that at some point or another we all encounter a few bumps in the road. And our main man in The Circuit—Francisco—is no exception.

When the book opens, Francisco has big dreams about moving from Mexico to California with his whole family. We're talking sweeping-money-off-the-streets kind of dreams. But we're sorry to report that California doesn't always live up to Francisco's high hopes.

In fact, he spends a lot of time struggling in school, especially since most of his teachers just ignore him. Plus his family worries about finding enough work—and then there's all that backbreaking labor when they do find it. Francisco hits some major potholes along his journeys in California, but our main man keeps finding ways to get back on the road again. It's pretty impressive stuff—and it just might make that mountain of homework staring you down this weekend look way more like a molehill.

The Circuit Resources


Nice to Meet You, Professor Jiménez
Check out this bio from Santa Clara University where Jiménez is a cool prof. Be prepared: he's a pretty impressive dude.

Articles and Interviews

Chatting with Our New Pal Jiménez
Take a look at this interview and you'll get a sneak peak into what inspires Jiménez the most.

Review Round-Up (Hint: The Circuit Rocks)
The Circuit is pretty popular so it's been reviewed tons of times. Take a gander at all the fanfare here.

The Real Scoop
This is a great article on Jiménez that includes an interesting twist on what the title alludes to. (We're not going to tell you—you're gonna have to read this one for yourself.)


Cronaca Interview Part 1
Get the story straight from Jiménez himself. This video interview might look dated, but it's chock full of info on the roots of the The Circuit.

Cronaca Interview Part 2
The second section of the interview…

Cronaca Interview Part 3
… and the third—and final—segment. Phew.

Gear Up for Greatness
Check out this fan-made trailer for The Circuit. It's guaranteed to pique your interest.


Cars, Circuits, and Butterflies
Check out this cover for The Circuit and see how the images link up with the stories inside.

It's Sequel Time
We're thinking that Breaking Through sounds like a happier title than The Circuit. Let's hope so.

Gotta Love the Butterflies
Jiménez thinks butterflies are pretty great. Here's the cover for his children's book named after them.