First, here's what Alvarez says about it on her website:
The seed for the novel came when I got involved translating at local schools for the children of Mexican migrant workers who have now made their way up to Vermont. (And boosted our compromised Latino population!) These workers are now doing the milking on many of our dairy farms. Without them, many of our small farmers could not survive, as they, too, are being squeezed by the high cost of farming and a dearth of workers.
Seeing how baffled the Mexican children and their classmates were about how to understand this situation that had thrown us all together, I thought: we need a story to understand what is happening to us! The title comes from a dragnet operation that the Department of Homeland Security conducted in 2006, named, Return to Sender. Work places were raided and undocumented workers were seized. Their children were the biggest casualties of this operation -- left behind to be soothed and reassured until they could be finally reunited with their parents.
The boy on the cover is Tyler. His family owns one of the dairy farms that hires Mexican migrant workers. The girl is Mari. I had a lump in my throat as I read about these two young people trying to make sense of the world and each other's world, too. Alvarez has done a terrific job showing all three.
Part of Tyler's world is his life at school. There, one of Tyler's teachers is a woman named Ms. Ramirez. Sprinkled in the first part of the book are references to Mexican culture, and, references to American Indian culture. Tyler has learned about the Trail of Tears. I liked seeing it in Alvarez's book. Tyler's world is enlarged by his teachers.