César: ¡Sí, Se Puede! Yes, We Can!

author: Carmen T. Bernier-Grand
illustrator: David Díaz
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.

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; paragraph redacted and note added 2/15/18)

Note, 2/15/18: Multiple women have come forward with public statements that David Díaz sexually harassed them. After investigating claims against Díaz, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) removed him from its board and conference faculty, and expelled him from the organization. Several other conferences have banned him as well. We have redacted our references to his art in this review.

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