Thursday, March 27, 2008

Heroes in Children's Books: Cesar: ¡Si, Se Puede! Yes, We Can!

Nutritious nonfiction. Sometimes I have to be tricked into reading what’s good for me. I accidentally read this book and I am so glad. I just read Cesar, ¡Si, Se Puede! Yes We Can! by Carmen T. Bernier-Grand, illustrated by David Diaz (Marshall Cavendish, 2004). Wow. It is a luminous, inspiring book. Bernier-Grand gently lays out the life of migrant worker advocate Cesar Chavez through easy-to-read poems. Her work is so loving and understated that you don’t feel you are reading poetry; you are just being pulled piece-by-piece into the daily, yearly events that shape a person strong enough to do heroic things. Teachers would surely love reading one spread at a time and then having brief discussions about what the pieces brought forth. This book is not in-your-face nonfiction. It’s nonfiction and heroism made personal. All the material could be used for kids at young ages…1st grade through 6th. But older kids, and sort-of adults like me love this, too! David Diaz’s art is sunny, joyful, delicious. It seems to grow and glow on the pages. Every school needs several copies of this book. I think it could change lives.

Now I am going to go look up Bernier-Grand's recent Pura Bel Pre author honor book, “Frida: ¡Viva la vida! Long Live Life!”

Once you get the taste for nutritious nonfiction, you want more and more. Because nonfiction is shelved by topic, not author, it takes a little extra work to hunt down the work of a particular nonfiction author. Yet there are some great nonfiction voices, like Bernier-Grand's, that are worth searching for.


Tanya Lee Stone said...

Ha! "not in-your-face nonfiction"

Yolanda LeRoy and I are giving a workshop on extraordinary nonfiction in April. Perhaps I should change my usage of "straight" nonfiction to "in your face" nonfiction! ;-)

Great post, April.

Mary Lee said...

Sounds like a great book! I'll put it on my to-read/to-buy list!

Anna M. Lewis said...

You're going to love Frida!

Bernier-Grand's lyrical free-verse poems illustrate with words Kahlo's passion, pain, and beauty in her art and life... a perfect match!