Shmoopsters, we'd like you to meet Francisco and his family. There's Papá, Mamá, Francisco's older bro Roberto, and his younger bro Trampita. This fam lives in Mexico, but they're about to go on a major adventure to California, where they want to build a new life. Needless to say, they've got big dreams for what lies ahead.
The family is super excited to head to California because it's supposed to be the most amazing place ever, but they end up spending the next handful of years picking crops and doing lots of moving around. Basically every year they live in Corcoran to pick cotton, Santa Maria to pick strawberries, and Fresno to pick grapes.
In Santa Maria, one of their first cities in California, Francisco has two new experiences:
When Francisco's family moves to Corcoran after living in Santa Maria, he's already onto his second school in California. The good news is that he makes a friend there right away, but the bad news is that this friend also disappears and we have no idea where he goes. (Fast fact: This book is an emotional roller coaster.)
Over the next few years, Francisco and his family move around a lot. And when we say a lot, we mean they move around so much it can make your head spin. But they have lots of adventures along the way. Papá accidentally kills the family's pet parrot; Francisco gets some new siblings—younger bros, Rubén and Torito, and little sis, Rorra; and Francisco finally finds an awesome teacher named Mr. Lema. But don't get too excited because his family moves soon so that teacher-student relationship leaves his life pretty quickly.
Over time, Francisco gets used to all this moving around. He also gets pretty strong with all the labor he does, since eventually he helps his family pick cotton, strawberries, and grapes. Plus Francisco really starts to dig school. So overall things are looking up… but then two tragedies happen that get us down in the dumps again.
By the end of the book, Francisco and his family move back to Francisco's favorite city, Santa Maria. He's doing great in school—you might even say Francisco's kicking butt.
So since everything is going so well, you just know it's all about to come crashing down. And sure enough, right before Francisco is ready to recite the portion of the Declaration of Independence that he's worked so hard on, border patrol comes to take him away. It's pretty much the biggest downer ever, and a rough note to end the book on.