At the age of fourteen, Francisco Jiménez, together with his older brother Roberto and his mother, are caught by la migra. Forced to leave their home in California, the entire family travels all night for twenty hours by bus, arriving at the U.S. and Mexican border in Nogales, Arizona. In the months and years that follow during the late 1950s-early 1960s, Francisco, his mother and father, and his seven brothers and sister not only struggle to keep their family together, but also face crushing poverty, long hours of labor, and blatant prejudice. How they sustain their hope, their good-heartedness, and tenacity is revealed in this moving, Pura Belpré Honor-winning sequel to The Circuit. Without bitterness or sentimentality, Francisco Jiménez finishes telling the story of his youth.
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"Breaking Through" is a memoir, an autobiographical narrative that relates incidents in the life of Dr. Francisco Jimenez. Despite growing up in extreme poverty and lacking traditional and regular formal education, Jimenez went on to graduate from Harvard University and now works in academia. He has written other books for young people, all memoirs of his youth. (This annotation contains an image)
This image shows immigration officers patrolling the international border between the United States and Mexico near San Diego, California. (This annotation contains an image)
The immigration officer forces Francisco to leave as he is preparing to recite the preamble to the Declaration of Independence. Why is this ironic?
Point of view tells you who is telling the story. The video below will help you understand point of view. From which point of view is this narrative told? (This annotation contains a video)
Where do Francisco and his parents cross the border?
The rock Francisco takes looks similar to the one below. Why does he put the nugget back the next morning? (This annotation contains an image)
The comment Francisco's classmates make shows
Did you know that you can look up any word in the text of the book or the text of the questions and answers? Just click (or press on mobile devices) the word you want to define and hold until the blue text selector pops up. When you release, a define option will appear. Since it's so easy to look up words, make sure you use this feature frequently. Is there a word on this page you need to look up?
Why does Francisco cry as he and Roberto board the bus?
Chorizo is a spicy sausage. Roberto and Francisco miss this breakfast meal their mother prepares for them. (This annotation contains an image)
Why doesn't Roberto tell Mr. Sims the truth about why he misses so much time from work?
Below is a picture of a young man thinning lettuce. (This annotation contains an image)
Why does Francisco have difficulty deciding which steak to order?
Roberto and Francisco clean classrooms like the custodian in the image below. (This annotation contains an image)
Francisco takes the titles of the songs literally. The video shows young people dancing to "Rock Around the Clock." (This annotation contains a video)
Francisco and his back up singers lipsynch this Elvis Presley song. (This annotation contains a video)
Why does Francisco dance with Roberto at home?
Peggy's neighborhood is quite different from Francisco's. He is impressed by her house.
Why does Peggy avoid Francisco at school and refuse to talk to him?
Which figure of speech does the narrator use in this text?
Santo Niño de Atocha or Holy Child of Atocha is a Roman Catholic image of the Child Jesus popular among the Hispanic cultures of Spain, Latin America, the Philippines and the southwestern United States. The image shows the Santo Nino and the prayer Francisco's mother may have prayed. (This annotation contains an image)
A curandera is
Francisco's father and mother are thankful for his healing and give thanks to God.
Back to the Fields
The Cristero Revolt started when the Mexican Constitution of 1917 was enforced by Mexican President Plutarco Elias Calles in order to hinder the influence of the Catholic Church and organizations affiliated with the Church.
Why does Papa decide to become a sharecropper?
What causes the strawberries to die?
Why doesn't Papa allow Francisco to go to the dance?
Saint Christopher Medal
Why does Francisco find Hernan Cortes fascinating?
Why does Papa give Francisco his Saint Christopher medal? (This annotation contains an image)
How does the family prepare for Ito's visit?
The narrator uses many Spanish words. You can often figure out their meaning by using context clues. Context clues are hints that an author gives to help define a difficult or unusual word. The video will help you understand how context clues are used. Can you use context clues to figure out the meaning of "taquitos"? (This annotation contains a video)
How does Trampita plan to make money?
Francisco is upset about the haircut his father gives him. Why doesn't he say anything?
Becoming a Saint
Why do Roberto and Francisco fail first grade?
What are Papa's thoughts about teachers?
Francisco watches the reflection of Roberto's car in the storefront windows. Below is a 1953 Buick similar to the one Roberto drives. (This annotation contains an image)
What excites Francisco about his meeting with Mr. Kinkade?
Francisco's classmates think it is all right for the son to argue with his father. How does their view differ from what Francisco has been taught?
If the Shoe Fits
Why don't Francisco's parents buy him a new pair of sneakers?
Francisco wants to make a good grade in P.E. He cleans up the sneakers and wears them even though they are too big and smelly.
Why does Papa's depression grow worse?
Why do Roberto and Francisco look for extra work?
Why is Papa upset with Francisco?
The main idea of a literary work is called the theme. The author may tell you the theme directly or you may have to figure it out based on what the characters say or do. The video will help you understand theme. What are some themes or main ideas in this book? (This annotation contains a video)
A Typing Machine
What does Papa teach Francisco about accepting favors?
Francisco has difficulty with
Miss Bell helps Francisco understand what to do in order to improve his writing.
Why does Francisco enjoy reading The Grapes of Wrath?
Francisco wants to learn more about Roberto's relationship with Susan.
Why do Peggy's parents disapprove of Roberto?
Behind the Wheel
Francisco earns his driver's license but does not want to drive his father's DeSoto. (This annotation contains an image)
Why does Francisco park his car behind the county fairgrounds?
We learn about a character from the way he or she speaks, acts, or interacts with others. The video explains character traits. What you learn about the characters in this book from their character traits? (This annotation contains a video)
Turning a Page
How does Mr. Kinkade explain to Francisco the difference between college and high school?
What does Francisco discover when he flips through the college textbook?
Mr. Osterveen lights up when he talks about Mexico. His wife is from Oaxaca. The map below shows the location of Oaxaca. (This annotation contains an image)
Why does Francisco suggest that the Spanish Club have a food drive for Christmas?
How does the food drive help Francisco's family?
The 1960 debate between Kennedy and Nixon is the first televised presidential debate. Watch the excerpt from the debate. What do you notice about the appearance of the two candidates? (This annotation contains a link)
According to the video, what advantage does Kennedy have over Nixon?
Many people have preconceived ideas about others. It may be because of their religious beliefs, national origin, or for other reasons. This is called prejudice.
Use the define feature to determine the meaning of the word scandal. Why does Francisco have concerns about Junior Scandals?
Papa prefers the Mexican stars such as Jorge Negrete and Pedro Infante. What does this preference reveal about Papa?
What does Francisco decide to do for Junior Scandals?
Roberto's words give Francisco the courage he needs to sing "Cielto Lindo". This song is widely accepted as the theme song of Mexico. (This annotation contains a video)
Running for Office
How do Francisco and Paul Takagi become friends?
Why does Francisco consider running for student body president?
How does thinking about racial segregation and the experiences he and others share at the Bonetti Ranch help Francisco decide to run for student body president?
Why doesn't Francisco do a funny skit like some of the other candidates?
Papa is happy for Francisco even though he does not understand the significance of the election.
A New Life
Roberto is in love with Darlene, a young girl who looks like movie actress Elizabeth Taylor. Below is an image of Elizabeth Taylor as a young woman. (This annotation contains an image)
Dolores del Rio was a Latin American female star in the 1920's and 1930's. She was considered to be one of the most beautiful women in the world. (This annotation contains an image)
Why does Francisco increase his hours at Santa Maria Window Cleaners?
A Test of Faith
What is wrong with Francisco?
Francisco is still tired. He becomes discouraged because he has gotten so far behind in his classes.
How does Francisco improve his spirits?
Papa is amused when Francisco tells him about the Rotary Club meeting because he thinks of the meaning of the word "roto" in Spanish.
Why is Francisco nervous as the luncheon begins?
Francisco is unprepared when he is asked to speak. He is extremely nervous and fumbles the speech.
A reader can learn about a character based on clues in the story. This is called making inferences. Watch the video to learn about making inferences. (This annotation contains a video)
Why does Francisco put the application for the Rotary Club at the bottom of the pile?
Mr. Kinkade tries to help Francisco come up with a plan to help his family financially so that he can attend college.
Why does Francisco need his father's permission to complete the scholarship applications?
Francisco's mother tells him to have faith that everything will work out for him.
What convinces Papa to allow Francisco to attend college?
Francisco's decision to attend Santa Clara University has a great impact on his life. The video shows some of his accomplishments. (This annotation contains a video)
Why does Santa Clara University award Dr. Jimenez the 2012 Locatelli Award?
How does Francisco feel about borrowing money for his college tuition?
Francisco's mother has faith that he will receive the scholarship money he needs for his college tuition.
Why does Papa' make excuses for attending the graduation exercises?
What is the meaning of the Pledge of Allegiance?
Francisco leads the Pledge of Allegiance. Listen to the words of the Pledge. Why does Francisco feel proud? (This annotation contains a video)
How is Francisco's move to college different from the other moves he has made?
How does Papa feel about Francisco going to college?
What wish does Mama have?
Think about the lessons you can learn from Francisco and his family as you watch the movie trailer for "Breaking Through." (This annotation contains a video)