Your search for the head honcho in this book is over: it's Francisco. Hands down. In fact, this book is so much about Francisco that we don't learn a ton about most of the other characters—that's how much of a main character this dude is. But the good news is that we learn all about his life as a hardworking son and a loving brother as he moves around California.
Since we get the whole book straight from Francisco's mouth, we are seriously stuck inside his head. So we're not only learning about every twist and turn of his Cali adventure—we're also getting a glimpse at how this chap thinks. (By the way, we've got oodles to say about Francisco's storytelling savvy, so swing on over to the "Narrator Point of View" section for the full scoop.)
We're not joking when we say that Francisco is maybe one of the nicest kids. Ever. It's tough to make friends when you're moving every few months, but he still manages to have buddies here and there, and he's pals with most of his teachers too. Plus he's such a good big bro to all the little tykes running around in his family.
In fact, he's so nice he's even kind to bullies. When Curtis tries to steal back Francisco's jacket, they get into a bit of a rumble. But in the end our main man finds a way to make things right:
I proudly carried the blue ribbon in my right hand and the drawing in the other. Arthur and Curtis came up and stood behind me to wait for their bus. Curtis motioned for me to show him the drawing again. I held it up so he could see it.
"He really likes it, Francisco," Arthur said to me in Spanish.
"¿Cómo se dice 'es tuyo' en inglés?" I asked.
"It's yours," answered Arthur.
"It's yours," I repeated, handing the drawing to Curtis. (3.31-35)
Sheesh, Francisco sure does take the high road here. Curtis has been mean to Francisco for pretty much their whole time at school together—and art is the only subject Francisco really likes, making the prize-winning pic all the more meaningful to him—but Mr. Nice Guy gives that awesome art away. Did you notice how Francisco even finds a way to communicate with Curtis in English? Talk about bringing the R-E-S-P-E-C-T to a situation.
Now we're not saying that Francisco never gets angry or upset or loses his patience—he absolutely does. But most of the time he's a nice fellow, even when times are tough.
What other experiences show Francisco's kindness? And what about the times he's not so nice?
Francisco gets knocked down more times than we can count, but each time he dusts himself off and gets back on the horse. (Okay, it's never actually a horse, but you know what we mean.)
So when his family has to move again and again, he puts up with it. And when his friends disappear, he keeps chugging along. Even when he's super upset because his favorite notebook (a.k.a. his librito) gets burned up in the house fire, our guy just keeps on truckin'. Okay, maybe it's not always that easy, but he sure does find a way to be resilient as all get-out:
When she saw I was not moving, she came up to me and placed her arm around me. I burst out crying. Lifting my chin with her right hand and looking me straight in the eyes, Mamá said,
"We're safe and we have each other, gracias a Dios."
"Yes, but what about my librito. It's gone, just like my pennies," I responded.
After a long pause she, said, "Do you know what was in your librito?" […]
I heard Mamá's words but did not understand what she meant until a few days later. […] I could see in my mind every word, every number, every rule, I had written in my note pad. I knew everything in it by heart. Mamá was right. It was not all lost. (11.74-76, 79)
Did you notice the process Francisco goes through from sadness to resilience? He might not know how to tough it out right away, but his mom helps him find a way to keep going. Ultimately, he even finds a way to look on the bright side of things.
What do you think of Francisco's resilience? Are there any downsides to his ability to keep on truckin' through every circumstance? Hopefully it serves him well going forward with the Border Patrol dudes.