¡Sí, Se Puede!/Yes We Can!: Janitor Strike In L.A. (Diana Cohn)

¡Hola amigos, y feliz cinco de Mayo! To celebrate, we wanted to read a book that recognizes a group of brave Latin-Americans, as well as their language, with the wonderful ¡Sí, Se Puede!/Yes We Can!: Janitor Strike In L.A., written by Diana Cohn and illustrated by Francisco Delgado, the story of the 2000 L.A. janitor’s union strike through the eyes of one Mexican-American family.

Carlos, or Carlitos as his mother calls him, is tucked in every night with her warm words: “Sleep with the angels.” Then his Mamá takes a bus downtown and spends all night cleaning the office buildings. As hard as she works, she still must work two more jobs to make ends meet, and she cannot afford Carlos’s abuelita’s medication. So one night, she sits Carlos down and explains that she and the other janitors in her union are going on strike, demanding fair compensation for all the hard work they do. Carlos supports his mother’s choice, and wishes he could help her. Finding that his classmates also have family members on strike, he knows exactly what to do. Following his mother’s example, he organizes, makes signs, and takes the lead to support the striking workers in their fight for fair pay.

This was a wonderfully moving story about a strike that changed that lives of many disenfranchised workers. Through the events of the strike, Cohn also tells a story of family, community, and the fundamental right to equal pay for equal work. The illustrations are gorgeous, blending the colors and styles of traditional South American art with a modern tale. The length might be stretching it for the littlest readers, but JJ sat through it happily and loved the art. Best of all, the text is presented in both English and Spanish, so readers of all ages and levels of fluency in each can enjoy the story AND connect the two languages to each other. This book is positively fantastic, and we highly recommend it. Definitely Baby Bookworm approved!

On Our Way To Oyster Bay: Mother Jones And Her March For Children’s Rights (Monica Kulling)

Hello, friends! Today, we read On Our Way To Oyster Bay: Mother Jones And Her March For Children’s Rights, written by Monica Kulling and illustrated by Felicita Sala, a biographical picture book about Mary Harris Jones, a children’s and workers’ rights activist at the turn of the century (JJ and I were fortunate enough to win this book in a giveaway by GoodReads!). 

Aidan and Gussie are both child workers at the cotton mill, and they decide to join their fellow strikers to improve work conditions. They are excited, because famed activist Mother Jones is coming to join their campaign, but they are surprised to find that Mother Jones is a little old lady! However, as she organizes a protest march from Pennsylvania to Oyster Bay, New York, they soon find that Mother Jones is a passionate force for the rights of others.

This was a very interesting book! There were a lot of elements here that worked very well: as a biography, it gave the reader a good sense of Mother Jones and what she was like, both her kindness towards the children she was fighting for and the ferver of her belief in her cause. It’s also a great look at what life was like in th 1900’s, especially for children (the description of child labor is striking enough to make an impact on young readers, yet not so graphic as to be frightening). Lastly, it imparts a message of fighting for one’s beliefs, even in the face of difficulty or opposition. The illustrations are colorful and lively, and bring the time period and characters to life.

One point: this one is definitely too long for baby bookworms of JJ’s age, as she barely made it through without losing interest. However, this is a fantastic book that would be great for older readers, and I’m happy that it’s part of our library so that JJ can enjoy it again as she gets older! Baby Bookworm approved!