From School Library Journal
Grade 2–6—The title of this bilingual biography echoes the theme of the life of a legendary Mexican-American activist in Texas during the 1920s and 1930s. The story moves from Tenayuca's childhood introduction to the poverty and unfair treatment of Mexican Americans living in her hometown of San Antonio to her increasing awareness of the injustice they suffered, and ultimate fight for their civil rights. Their plight made her angry: "She saw so many people go to work when it was still dark and not come home again until late at night. Many worked so many hours that they were coughing and sick, and still they did not earn enough to feed their children." In 1938, at the age of 21, she led a successful strike of 12,000 pecan shellers whose pitiful wages had been cut from six cents to three cents an hour. In an afterword, which includes photographs of Tenayuca, the rest of her story is related: jailed many times, forced to move, she eventually worked her way through college and returned later to San Francisco as a reading teacher for migrant children. Ybáñez's striking illustrations, framed by pecan-tree branches, are reflective of traditional Mexican mural art, with bold colors and simple shapes. An important book celebrating the struggle for justice and civil rights.—Lee Bock, Glenbrook Elementary School, Pulaski, WI
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This handsome picture-book biography in English and Spanish relates the struggle of Mexican American farmworkers in the early twentieth century through the perspectiive of Emma Tenayuca, who became a labor activist. Growing up in San Antonio, Texas, in the early twentieth century, Tenayuca was shocked by the gross inequality around her, comparing her comfortable home to the extreme poverty of the many families of factory and farmworkers. As a smart, kind teenager, she spoke in public about the plight of the pecan shellers in the factories, and at 21, in 1938, she led 12,000 workers in a strike that forced factory owners to raise wages. Co-authored by the late Tenayuca’s niece and one of the activist’s friends, the story is heavy on exclamatory messages. Yet the stirring, unfamiliar chapter in labor history and the humanitarian efforts of Tenayuca herself will intrigue children, who will also like the bold, mural-like illustrations, which show a child confronting suffering and growing up to make a difference. Pair this with Francisco Jiménez’s personal stories and with Sí Se Puede! Yes We Can (2002). Grades 2-4. --Hazel Rochman