César: ¡Sí, Se Puede! Yes, We Can!

 
author: Carmen T. Bernier-Grand
illustrator: David Diaz
Marshall Cavendish, 2004
grades 2-6
Mexican American

In a powerful collection of lyrical, free verse poems rich in farm worker idiom, Bernier-Grand has reconstructed the life and work of the founder and organizer of the United Farm Workers. What makes these poems remarkable is that they not only chronicle the life of a brave and humble man, they also contain his own words. The back breaking work of thinning lettuces with a short-handled hoe, workers trying not to breathe in the deadly pesticides, people too tired to feel their hunger, and a prayer: “give me honesty and patience, so that I can work with other workers.” César: ¡Sí, Se Puede! Yes, We Can!, a Pura Belpré Honor Book, will help develop empathy in young readers, will help them understand the stuff and dreams that make heroes out of ordinary people.

From the images of young César with his family, to the agricultural workers in the fields, to a United Farm Workers protest, Diaz’s evocative and softly colored, stylized folk-art illustrations are beautiful to look at and give balance to the poetry that is at once gentle and direct.

The back matter includes source notes, a glossary of Spanish words, a brief biographical essay and chronology, and a selection of essential quotes. Although there is a Spanish-language version, it’s too bad that this otherwise excellent book is not bilingual. Highly recommended.

—Beverly Slapin
(published 4/6/13)

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