Efrén Divided by Ernestro Cisneros

Efrén Divided

Ernestro Cisneros, Author

Quill Tree Books, Fiction, Mar. 31, 2020

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Themes: Undocumented parents, Mexican Americans, Deportation, Family, Friendship, Culture

Book Jacket Synopsis:

Efrén Nava’s Amá is his Superwoman—or Soperwoman, named after the delicious Mexican sopes his mother often prepares. Both Amá and Apá work hard all day to provide for the family, making sure Efrén and his younger twin siblings, Max and Mia, feel safe and loved.

But Efrén worries about his parents; although he’s American-born, his parents are undocumented. And according to the neighborhood talk, or local chisme, families like his are in great danger. Sure enough, Efrén’s  worst nightmare comes true one day when Amá doesn’t return from work and is deported across the border to Tijuana, México.

Now it’s up to Efrén to be brave and figure out how to act soper himself. While Apá takes an extra job to earn the money needed to get Amá back, Efrén looks after the twins, washes laundry, fixes meals, and does his schoolwork. He helps his best friend’s probably-doomed campaign for school president, and worries about what might happen to his family next.

When disaster strikes, Efrén is faced with crossing the border alone to see Amá and deliver a special package. There is danger all around him. More than ever, he must channel his inner Soperboy to help reunite his family.

Why I like this book:

Ernestro Cisneros’s powerful and timely debut novel, Efrén Divided, captures the humanity of children of undocumented Mexican-American families living in the US.  I love that Cisneros wrote this novel for his children to show that Mexican Americans “are worth being written about.” Some of the book was taken from his own childhood.

The plot is both dangerous and heartwarming. The richly textured narrative is peppered with Spanish words and expressions, which are nicely woven into the story in a way that readers will grasp the translation. But there is a glossary of words and expressions at the end of the book. The diverse cast of characters are memorable, especially David, who adds for some fun comic relief.

Although parents immigrate to the US to provide a better life for their children, there is an underlying worry, pain, and fear for all family members. When Efrén’s mother is discovered by ICE, it forces him to grow up too quickly. Although he is a courageous and resilient teen, he carries a huge burden filled with responsibilities. He can’t confide in anyone — even his best friend David — because he puts his undocumented father and family at risk. 

When Efrén crosses the border alone into Tijuana to see his mom, he sees first-hand the reasons why his parents and others risk the trip north. There is danger lurking on every street corner and down every alley. He feels eyes watching him. There is poverty. Young kids are forced to work or beg for money instead of playing. Men and women of all ages sell handmade items along the curbs. He shudders at the US-built border fence where separated families meet with loved ones at a chain link fence.

There will be many teens who will relate to Efrén’s story, whether they have undocumented parents, family members, or know someone who does. This book should be at the top of the list in school classrooms because it is perfect for meaningful discussions.

The ending surprised me. It is realistic and hopeful. Perhaps there is a sequel in the works? Verdict: This book is a winner!

Ernesto Cisneros was born and raised in Santa Ana, California, where he still teaches. Efrén Divided is his first novel. He holds an English degree from the University of California, Irvine; a teaching credential from California State University, Long Beach; as well as a master of fine arts in creative writing from National University. As an author, he believes in providing today’s youth with an honest depiction of characters with whom they can identify. The real world is filled with amazing people with diverse backgrounds and perspectives. His work strives to reflect that. You can visit him at his website.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the MMGM link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Reviewed from a library copy.

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

24 thoughts on “Efrén Divided by Ernestro Cisneros

  1. There have been a few stories based on this topic lately which is good as it is important. I like the sound of the main character. Children in these situations do have to grow up quickly, which is sad.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So glad you liked this. I reserved it at my library and am waiting for my turn to read it. Sounds like it will be worth the wait. Thanks!

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  3. I absolutely loved this book! The story was so powerful and impactful. Thanks for the great review—I’m glad this book is being brought to the attention of more readers!

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  4. Timely indeed. This story begs to be read at this time in our country’s history. The cover is powerful as is the plot. Thanks for sharing on MMGM. You’ve added another title for me to read this year.

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    • It is so timely. I just can’t imagine the fear children live under knowing that ICE could deport their parents. They are forces to grow up to soon, as seen by Efren. Loved this book!

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  5. This sounds like an amazing story! You make the entire story sound so good. The main character sounds so sweet, and it seems like the story does a good job of both being realistic about the circumstances as well as uplifting. Definitely a winner! lol Thanks for the review!

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    • It is realistic, but hopeful. And, the author stayed very true to what happens among families. Kids live with secrets and grow up too quickly, when a family member is deported. Can’t imagine living with that anxiety.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I could just tell from the description that this book is steeped in language and culture (like the use of “soperwoman”–so cool). I especially like how it shows life in Tijuana. I think it’s important for kids to see how different life is across the border (and in many other countries as well).

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    • Yes, it is steeped in culture and language. I loved “soperwoman” too! Efren is interested in getting to see a bit of Mexico, but it is very different than what he thought and he understands why his family left. That insight adds a lot to the story and he appreciates what he has in the US. I loved this book!

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  7. I’m so pleased to see books on this subject. For all the Efren’s of the world, I hope we can educate our country about the plight of undocumented workers.

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  8. I enjoyed your post about this very important topic. I worked with diverse students at several schools during my career, and my heart goes out to any children and their families who are going through this difficult time (or times in the past). Thanks for sharing this poignant story with us for MMGM.

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    • Thank you for sharing. My heart just breaks with what is happening to immigrant families. I can’t imagine being a worried child carrying around secrets. This book is very touching and I was delighted to read a copy.

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