...and now Miguel

A Review

as submitted in DePaul's Education class, June, 1996

Book Review
Krumgold, Joseph
...and now Miguel
Illustrated by Jean Charlot
Vail-Ballou Press, 1953 12.95

Taking on many themes, ...and now Miguel tells the story of Miguel, a 12-year-old boy living in rural New Mexico. As related in the first person by Miguel, we get his perspective on his world, which consists of his parents, who take on traditional gender roles of housekeeper and sheepherder; his brother Gabriel, who is 19 and starting to drift from the family, or at least from Miguel's immediate vicinity; Pedro, his little brother, who is "content" with what he has and often looks up to Miguel; and Faustina, his little sister.

His world also involves his family's sheep farm. The cycle of raising sheep is a significant part of Miguel's life, and so of the book. We see that Miguel cares for the sheep. There are many situations when he will attempt to humanize them and their behavior. Sometimes he will occasionally verbalize what they are thinking by their facial expressions. This shows that he feels a slight connection to them, and desires to understand them. Of course, many children (and adults as well) desire to understand animals, especially pets, or other animals close to us.

We see that Miguel also cares for the sheep's well-being. In order to keep track of which sheep families go together, they are branded with matching numbers. However, Miguel is quick to advise us that the branding is not similar to what is done to cattle, by burning, but with paint. As he portrays descriptions of branding, he often reminds the reading audience that none of this activity ever hurts the animal. I, along with most readers, was glad and relieved to know this.

Questions exist about grammar. Originally, I wondered if this book had been translated from Spanish. I speculated on this not only because of the nature of the story, but also because of the idioms and the grammatical structure of the sentences.

Miguel is questioned by his father over whether he is "making fun out of me." (131) I have never heard that expression articulated in this manner, it is usually as "making fun of me." A translated text would explain this.

It also appeared that the author made an effort to not end his sentences with a preposition. This is how Spanish sentences are structured. However, with both the American publisher and the American name of the author and the lack of a translating credit, I suspect it was written in English. Yet, this still begs further questions. Why would Mr. Krumgold take care to structure his (or Miguel's) sentences correctly ("...the world from which I come..."), belying the fact that this is probably not how adolescents speak, but still structure other sentences incorrectly ("he don't like that")? It was these inconsistencies that got me to wonder about whether the story was translated, whether the author intended to depict Miguel this way, or whether he didn't think about it.

There are very few female characters in this story. I suppose that this should not be surprising, in light of the fact that this book was authored over 40 years ago. However, now that we are aware of such gaps, this subject should be addressed if this book is taught in a classroom. His sister, Faustina, is a minor character, and doesn't say much of significance due to her age, while his mother is also relegated to minor-character status with them having few encounters, and we're not even told her name.

We are not actually informed of the time period in which Miguel's episodes occur. It is now necessary (now meaning over 40 years after publication) to peek at the title page to discover the copyright date. However, it is still not explicitly stated that this time period is the present (of 1953). This can, in a way, be enlightening. Most children, especially urban students, will be oblivious to farm life. Not only will this book illuminate some of the characteristics of working on a farm, it will also illustrate the (relative) hardships of farm life, and that it still is very much in existence. Farmlife hardships are relative, because they may only be considered hardships to us. In the eyes of Miguel and his family, their chores are probably not looked upon as being "hardships."

There are many hidden lessons contained here. The most obvious may be patience. There is a certain trip on which Miguel wants to accompany his family, and he is not permitted to go with them until the next time. When he finally does, far into the future, the rewards are many. There are other situations as well in which the virtue of patience is utilized. I suppose, theoretically, that students might learn certain values by virtue of reading this book.