First Day in Grapes

author: L. King Pérez
illustrator: Robert Casilla
Lee & Low, 2002
grades 1-3 
Mexican American

Chico, a child of migrant agricultural workers, “had so many first days—first days in artichokes, first days in onions, first days in garlic. Now, the family is in California and Chico’s first day in third grade would be in grapes.”

First Day in Grapes chronicles young Chico’s first day in yet another school, where he is apprehensive because of previous experiences with bullying and name-calling. But, after he meets some new friends and a caring young teacher who “can crack a home run over the playground fence,” drives back two mean kids from fourth grade with his remarkable math skills, and charms a surly bus driver, who “looked as mean as a crew boss,” Chico gains a sense of pride and accomplishment. Although Casilla’s illustrations—rendered in watercolor, colored pencil, and pastel—show real people and give warmth to the story, the story itself is just not convincing. A far better choice for this age level would be Linda Jacobs Altman’s Amelia’s Road. Marginally recommended.

—Beverly Slapin
(published 4/6/13)

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