Citation: Bernier-Grand, C. T., & Diaz, D. (2013). César: ¡Sí, se Puede! Las Vegas, NV: Two Lions/Amazon Children’s Publishing.
This book includes several poems that chronicle the life of Cesar Chavez from his childhood through his historic work for farm workers’ rights and his death. Each poem covers a chapter in his life or significant influence on the man he would become including his mother, father, difficult childhood, The Depression, and more.
Each poem includes a vibrant illustration depicting the events or subject of the poem. The book also includes a table of contents with the title of each poem included in the book as well as the appendices at the end, which include author’s notes, a glossary of Spanish terms, the story of Cesar Chavez’s life told in prose with additional information, a timeline of Cesar Chavez’s life, a list of sources used, and a collection of memorable quotes from Cesar Chavez.
The poet used his craft to present historic events and a famous person in a condensed and accessible way to children who may not be familiar with this man and the events of his life. The emotional impact of the poetry in this book helps to put the reader in a place of openness to his cause. It puts the reader in his shoes by condensing the story and fully connecting the range of emotions the workers and Cesar himself felt throughout his life. It is a wonderful tool to begin a lesson on workers’ rights, Cesar himself, social justice, racism, or activism.
Spotlight Poem: “Dad: Librado Chavez”
como un guitarron.
Nearly six feet tall.
Huge, strong hands.
how to make cars
out of sardine cans
out of spools of thread.
‘Never afraid of work
and often did too much.’
Found it dishonorable
to be fired for being lazy.
‘But if somebody was fired
for standing up for a person’s rights,
it was quite honorable.’
Tugged at Cesar’s ears
and patted his head.”
This poem stood out to me with its simplicity. What appears, at first reading, to simply be a story about Chavez’s childhood and his connection with his father really starts to drive home how influential his father was in Cesar’s later work. My favorite lines that fully expose this point are “’But if somebody was fired/for standing up for a person’s rights,/it was quite honorable.’/Tugged at Cesar’s ears/and patted his head.” By putting those lines together back-to-back, the poet shows that his father’s words tugged at his ears, just as his father did lovingly. The words stayed with him throughout his life and greatly shaped his future.
This poem also illustrates Cesar’s ordinary childhood. He was a simple child like anyone else who enjoyed spending time with his father who he viewed as larger than life and monumentally important. He made toys with him and worried for him. This perfectly shows children that anyone can change the world.
Take 5 Activity:
- Read the poem aloud, explaining the Spanish phrases.
- Let the students sit with the poem and ask them to discuss their favorite lines.
- Read Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez by Kathleen Krull to the class. Discuss key parts of his life and the influence his father had on him.
- Discuss how Cesar Chavez was an ordinary child like anyone else who enjoyed spending time with his father, and he wound up changing the lives of countless people. Have the class brainstorm ways anyone could make a change.
- Re-read the poem aloud as a class and suggest books such as Grandfather Gandhi by Arun Gandhi, Grace for President by Kelly DiPucchio, Harlem’s Little Blackbird by Renee Watson, and Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson.