Author: Krull, Kathleen
Illustrator: Morales, Yuyi
Publisher and Date: Harcourt Books, 2003
Genre: Biography, Picture Book
Age Range: 3rd-6th
Awards: ALA Pura Belpré Honor Book
Summary: This biography is of Cesar Chavez. He came from a ranch in Arizona and loved to spend time with his family. When a drought came in 1937 his family was forced to give up their ranch and move to California to look for work. Chavez and his family worked someone else's farm in hopes of saving up money to buy their ranch back, but that dream quickly faded. After 8th grade, Chavez dropped out of school to work in the fields full-time in order to put food on the table. Migrant workers were mistreated by the landowners, sometimes being murdered for complaining of the poor conditions. In his early twenties, Chavez dedicated his life to fighting for a change in the conditions of migrant workers. He taught that truth was a better weapon than violence, something he had learned from his mother when he was young. He organized a march from Delano, CA to Sacramento, CA to ask for help for La Causa (The Cause) from the government. When the march reached Sacramento, it was 10,000 people strong. Chavez won the fight and signed the first contract for farm workers in American history.
Response: The illustrations in this book are vibrant and absolutely beautiful. On the first page spread, the people looked as though there was glow from a campfire in front of them, even though there was no actual fire depicted in the illustration. I think the illustrations match Chavez and his culture almost exactly. His family was from Mexico, and in Hispanic cultures they use lots of vibrant colors in art and even to paint their houses with. I really enjoyed this aspect of the illustrations.
There wasn't one specific emotion I felt throughout the book while reading it. It was more like i felt the emotions of the people in the book as the story progressed. Their faces show how the emotions they are feeling, especially their eyes. I did feel angry, however when Chavez was in school and the teacher hung a sign around his neck saying, "I am a clown. I speak Spanish." because he broke the rule one time about speaking English at all times. I don't like it at all when students are singled out by their teachers. It is not appropriate, especially when you hang a sign around the poor child's neck. There are so many other ways the situation could have been handled that would have gotten the teacher's point across without embarrassing him. I have been singled out before by teachers and it really doesn't benefit anyone. It just leaves the student feeling dumb or embarrassed, which is unnecessary especially if you want the student to be successful.
One quote from the book that stood out to me was the rallying cry of the marchers, "Sí Se Puede", which means, "Yes, It Can Be Done". It is very encouraging and gave the United Farm Workers hope and confidence in their cause and in themselves. The marchers' cry can be inspiration for so many others as well. It encourages one to keep pressing on until they reach their goal. It leaves no room for giving up, only a path to move forward.
Teaching Ideas: In a study of heroes in American history, students could study people (like Cesar Chavez) who made an incredible difference in the lives of many people. Each student could choose a person they don't know much about and read their biography. Organize a "Live Museum" for the students to participate in. They will dress up and act like the hero they have chosen and present the museum to parents, other teachers, etc.
Websites on Cesar Chavez:
Patient, compassionate, courageous, stubborn.
Friend of migrant farm workers.
Lover of truth, justice, and peace.
Who feels uncertainty, perseverance, and accomplishment.
Who finds happiness in fighting for what he believes in.
Who needs to make the voice of migrant workers heard.
Who gives hope to those who have none.
Who fears losing the battle and
Who would like to see a change in working conditions.
Who enjoys helping others, hunger strikes, and the support of his family.
Who likes to wear the pride of his people when fighting for La Causa.
Resident of California.