Six-year-old Pedrito is very poor but doesn’t really know it at all until he hears that fact whispered by someone else. His family lives on a South Texas farm in the year 1941, as legal immigrants struggling to make enough money to live but always having enough to eat. When they are sick, Dona Maria helps cure or heal their illness. Martinez conveys the magic in Pedrito’s world where he discovers the delicious taste of ice cold water for the first time or the repeated experience of smashing open a home-grown, huge watermelon and delving into its sweet, fragrant taste. The child has a deep respect for his wise and loving parents, who consistently manage to convey their larger hopes for the future without subtracting one bit from the present.
What’s it like to enter a school where everyone speaks English and one is told how much trouble will be created by speaking Spanish on school grounds? Then what is it like when a teacher, Miss Garcia, mentors a child wanting to learn about this amazing world? What’s it like to be the first in one’s family to read a book and to teach what is learned? What wonder lies in Pedrito’s thoughts and feelings when hearing a radio for the first time? Such are the amazing moments that the reader encounters through a child’s world.
Mexican lore is celebrated in the tales told by Pedrito’s mother and father. The importance of family becomes starkly real when Pedrito loses a young friend and learns about the plight of illegal migrant workers from across the border.
Pedrito’s World should be required reading in all schools. Martinez has written a lively, dignified, and engaging story of so many of our nation’s recent Mexican immigrants.