Win some signed Illegal bookmarks! Details at the end of this post.

“When will you be back?” I asked, holding Papa’s hand at the bus stop.

Worry coated Papa’s face. “As soon as I can earn enough money.”

“Should I get a job too?” I asked. “I could ask if they need help in the church.”

Papa’s eyebrows drew together over his glasses, “No. Your job is not to grow up until I get back.” He cupped my chin in his hand and his eyes brimmed with tears.

I reached up and pulled off his glasses to clean them with the edge of my cotton skirt. “Ignacio’s Papa never came back. Then, her family left.” What if that happened to us?

Mama shuffled her sandaled feet in the dusty road and cleared her throat. “Arturo, the bus will be here soon.”

“Why can’t we go with you?” I felt the dryness of the land crawling into my throat. “I promise I won’t be a burden. Mama can stay here to take care of Grandma and the orchard. Please, don’t go.”

Mama smoothed the stray hairs from my braid, “Nora, we talked about this. You can’t go with Papa. We all agreed this is for the best.”

I snapped at her. “I didn’t agree. I don’t even want presents for my birthday or a communion dress. We should just try harder. HERE!”

Mama’s face crinkled up in hurt, “It’s not about wanting. Please don’t make this so hard for him.”

“I wish I could stay, but the buyers don’t come the pueblos anymore. The drought. No jobs. We need the money, mija.” Papa pulled me close and kissed the top of my head. “I promise I’ll be back. I always keep my promises.” A small gold cross dangled out of his shirt. “I will. Even far away,” his voice vibrated.

“Do you really have to go away to make things better?” I asked

The bus turned the corner and Papa released me, picking up his black plastic bag. I tangled my arms around his waist. “Don’t go. Please, don’t go. I need you Papa.”

Papa tried to separate us. “Nora, there is no other choice. This is how I will protect us. Just for a little while.”

“NO!!!” I screamed. “NO! NO! NO!”

“I love you, Nora. Ti amo, Aurora.”

Mama squeezed between us to hug Papa, but I found that I couldn’t let go. Mama slowly wedged herself into my grasp, and he pulled away.

“NOOOOO!” Mama’s tight arms pulled me away and he boarded the bus.

I kicked and scratched at her, “We can’t let him go. No Papi, Nooo!”

The bus lurched away, leaving me sitting in the dirt with tears streaking down my face.

Excerpt© 2011 Bettina Restrepo


About the book:

Nora is on a desperate journey far away from home. When her father leaves their beloved Mexico in search of work, Nora waits father’s return and a better day. When the letters and money stop coming, Nora decides that she and her mother must look for him in Texas.

What people are saying:

“An important novel that deserves a wide readership.”–Michael Cart, Author of Young Adult Literature: From Romance to Realism and chair of the American Library Association’s Printz Award committee

Illegal is a compelling read with a tightly woven plot and great attention to detail…Throughout the book, the importance of family and faith coupled with a strong work ethic and the struggle to survive underscores some basic values of many Hispanics and pinpoints the irony of our current immigration dilemma in this country.”–Pauletta Augustina, Librarian and Teacher in Peoria, AZ

“Thoroughly engaging and thought-provoking, this novel should be recommended to anyone looking for a human interest story.”–Angie Hammond, VOYA (4 out of 5 for quality and popularity)

“This memorable coming-of-age story will awaken readers to the overlooked struggles of immigrants.”–Kirkus Reviews

Released: March 8, 2011

About the author:

Bettina used to wear pantyhose and sit in traffic.  Now, she talks to people in her head and wears mismatched clothes.  She has a degree from University of Texas, but believes she has learned more from other writers and reading good books.  She has a husband that she doesn’t cook for, a dog she walks twice a day, and a quirky little boy who makes her laugh and pull out her hair all at the same time. You can visit her at


Bettina has been kind enough to contribute some signed Illegal bookmarks for a giveaway!

To enter simply leave a comment on this post.

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Please list your extra entries in the comments.

The contest is open in the US and Canada and ends on April 6th at midnight EST.

Good luck and happy reading!