…and now Miguel
Joseph Krumgold (Juvenile Fiction)
“I am Miguel. For most people it does not make so much difference that I am Miguel. But for me, often, it is a very great trouble.”
Twelve-year-old Miguel is a Chavez and in the Chavez family there is always one thing—sheep. To raise sheep is the work of the family. Wherever you find a Chavez man, you’ll find a flock of sheep. Miguel lives near Taos, New Mexico and is straddled between two brothers who have it easy: little Pedro is small and has all that he wants and big brother Gabriel is old enough that anything he wants he can get. But being Miguel is not so easy. What he wants, what he truly desires, is to go to the Sangre de Cristo mountains where the Chavez men take the sheep to graze each summer. But year after year, Miguel is left behind. How can he prove to his father that he is finally ready for this responsibility? But since he is only Miguel, he knows that this will not be an easy thing to do.
…and now Miguel is based on actual people whom Krumgold spent time with and got to know. Hearing him tell Miguel’s story and his desire to prove himself worthy to a father he adores and respects is intimate and personal. The reader deeply connects with Miguel as he attempts to be needed and longs to make a difference. Miguel’s biggest obstacle is not his will or desire, but simply time. As his mother once said to him, “To become something different from what you are, it takes more than being strong. Even a little time is needed as well.” How often do we find ourselves pursuing opportunities that we know we aren’t ready for?
This story has so many positive messages and relatable situations for young readers (aged ten and above). Unfortunately, it does lag quite a bit near the end when Miguel and Gabriel discuss the strengths and weaknesses of making a wish, which is actually the two coming into their own spiritual awakening through the recognition of Devine intervention and providence. This was a weighty and lengthy dialogue between the two that could have been greatly condensed and had the same effect. Although this is a pivotal moment for the two brothers, the momentum of the story ultimately suffered and was never able to fully recover.
Miguel reminds us that things don’t always go the way we wish or plan for life always seems to get in the way somehow. Big surprises or unexpected announcements are never delivered or received in the way in which we hope. Miguel is a deeply devoted boy who, in the end, realizes that his life—his fate—is not in his control. He must rely on his faith in knowing that everything will work out as it should. His mother and father understand this, Gabriel understands this…and now Miguel will understand this and will realize that by him just being Miguel has already made a great difference.
* Book cover image attributed to www.goodreads.com