Thursday, August 31, 2023




Work, Gardening, and the Art of Zen

     The teenage kid looked like Jeff Spicoli, Sean Penn’s character in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, though the movie hadn’t been made, yet. My boss told me to use him like an assistant. It was 1973. While taking college classes at night, I worked full-time as a grounds’ keeper at a local high school, 7:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M., each day, cold in winter, hot in summer, beautiful in spring, and a lot alone time.

     Each morning, I'd walk up to grassy knoll just above the Administration Office, early, before most of the faculty and staff had arrived. I'd look out over the Pacific, the beach barely four blocks to the west. Not a bad job, healthcare, vacation time, and a pension plan, though I had eyes on something bigger. What? I didn’t’ know. For now, this met my needs.

     My boss took me aside, one day, and told me this kid had been getting into trouble. Detention didn’t seem to make a difference, so the principal asked if we could find something for the kid to do for fourth period, just before his lunch break. The physical labor might do him some good.

     I reached out to shake the kid's hand. “Hey, I’m Danny,” I said. He looked down at my hand, slowly took it, and shook. “Joey,” he responded, without any emotion, his eyes on me.

     In the early 70’s, everything was upside down. A lot of guys attended college to dodge the draft. Peace and love were in the air. Big pay checks, fancy clothes, houses, and cars meant nothing. In fact, ownership meant being trapped in the system. As students, everybody was studying literature, the social sciences, and art, not so many science or engineering majors. The outdoors was king. It was like everybody was hitting the road in vans, pickup trucks with campers, and old school buses painted like kaleidoscopes. Educated kids, rebelling against their parents, didn’t want to settle down or work in offices, avoiding the dreaded eight-to-five grind, and the growing corporate culture. They wanted the outdoors, freedom and independence. 

     Hell, a lot of them didn’t even want to work at all, and many didn’t. They were the first kings and queens of Welfare, hippies collecting monthly checks and cashing in food stamps, the social stigma not yet invented, until the media began focusing on black single mothers and Chicanos who started asking for help. As elections neared, Congress cried “foul.” Truth be told, most Mexicans I knew worked. It was drilled into us from an early age. "You want to eat, mi'jo. Go work!"

     I’m not sure why my boss brought the kid to me, maybe because I was the youngest guy on the crew, only three or four years older than the high school seniors. That I’d been in army and gone to Vietnam didn’t matter. Like a lot of vets, I kept quiet about it, not wanting others to think of me as a "baby killer." Still, even though I was married and had a kid, I was immature, thinking about weekends of partying with friends and ingesting whatever new substance they came up with. I was more a kid than adult. 

     The older guys on the crew, one Irishman in his sixties, and an Indian in his late thirties, considered me cool, kind of like a hippy-gardener because I wore a funky straw campesino’s hat I found at Olvera Street in downtown L.A. I donned flared Levis’, a light blue work shirt, and a faded Levi’ jacket with colorful flowers and butterflies stitched into it, a homemade job.

     “Have him do whatever you need,” were my boss’ last instructions before leaving me with the kid.

     I took him into the work shed and showed him around, pointing out all the different tools, electric, motor, and manual. I showed him the lunch area, coffee always percolating, a vase of flowers in the center of the table, homey, in case teachers wanted to escape the backstabbers in the faculty lounge. So, they'd come down here and slum it, free to talk about whatever subjects they had to avoid in the faculty lounge. Don’t laugh. Word traveled fast. Sometimes there’d be so many teachers crowded around our lunch table, there was no place for us.

     The kid didn’t seem impressed. I introduced him to Mike Zender, a tall, handsome college graduate from back east who said he refused to “work in an office and sit on my ass for the rest of my life.” Mike loved nature, camping, hiking. and gardening, especially the “weed” he grew and sold, “to make ends meet,” was his rationale. His big dream was to move to Oregon and start a worm farm and lose himself in the woods. Mike would bring in books to share with me He introduced me to writers, like the eccentric Trappist monk, Thomas Merton, the Indian mystic Krishnamurti, the hip, fashionable philosopher-alcoholic Allan Watts, and German novelists Goethe and Herman Hesse.

     I pulled a leaf rake down from a rack and handed it to the kid, thinking I’d start easy. We walked to a solid wall of tall eucalyptus trees, at least forty-foot-high. They grew along the baseball field’s first-base line, to keep foul balls from zipping onto the freeway. The kid's face fell when he saw the grass covered in leaves. I told him not to worry about it if he didn't finish, to just rake the leaves into piles, and, later, we'd come by and pick them up in an electric cart.

     It was about an hour’s job, enough work to keep him busy for the class period. I headed back to the shed, but then, I turned around towards the kid, I guess, just checking to make sure he knew what to do. I noticed he had the rake in his hands and was turning it over, slowly, like a baton. At first, I thought he was messing around, but then I realized he had no idea how to hold it. Who didn’t know how to use a rake? My dad had me raking leaves when I was barely five years old, by six I was turning over dirt with a hoe and pulling weeds, and by ten I was cutting the lawn with a power mower. Work, man. Everybody worked.

     The kid, eventually, grasped the rake handle with both hands, like he was holding a baseball bat, ass backwards. He stabbed at the leaves with the rake head, awkwardly pushing the leaves around, ignoring the laws of physics, the leaves escaping in all directions. I watched for a while and decided I had to do something, but I didn't want to embarrass him.

     I walked back to the shed and came out with another rake. I took up a place a few yards from him and started raking leaves. I wanted him to see the right way to hold a rake and use it. He watched me, studied my hands, and he switched his around like mine. He saw how I stretched my arms and upper torso, moving rhythmically, like an athlete broad jumping, pitching, throwing a football, or hitting a tennis ball. If we had music, it would have looked like I was moving to the sounds, in time to the beat, my arms reaching, my legs perfectly spaced, capturing leaves in the teeth of the rake, and pulling them towards me, over and over again, not too fast, not too slow, steady, letting the tool and gravity do the work.

     Slowly, he began to imitate me, much slower, though, and awkward, but starting to get it. “I’ve been doing this a long time.” I told him, “Since I was a kid. You learn, you know, like playing an electric guitar or drums. It's all about the rhythm. You don’t work as hard that way. It's all about timing.”

     By the end of the semester, he had it down, not great but much better, and not just raking but using a hoe to pull weeds, a shovel to dig holes, a trowel to plant flowers, and shears to trim a hedge. Sure, he still had a way to go, but I know he took pride in his improvement, even showing off when other students passed by. 

     Throughout the semester, we talked. He was a curious kid. He confided in me, too, you know, like the things bothering most teenagers. I listened. I've always been a good listener, so it gave him confidence that he had something important to say. The kid wanted to know about the army and about Vietnam. I told him what I could, what I thought he might be able to understand. Sure, everybody wants to know about killing and dead bodies, but they don’t know whether to ask or not, mainly because many of us, veterans, don’t know how to respond.

     Oh, he had no intention of ever joining the military, and I didn't glamorize my experiences. When he asked why I joined, I told him we were from different sides of the tracks. None of my friends talked about going to college or living in dorms. After high school, they all got jobs and waited to be drafted. For some of us, the miliary was a way to leave home and explore the world. It was our college.

     His parents had money and lived up in the Santa Monica highlands, a big new housing development above the Palisades. I told him he had opportunities none of my friends, nor I, ever had, or I was too ignorant to understand. Like him, I didn't listen to my parents, either. They talked about me going to college but had no idea how to get in. Even though I went to a Catholic school, the teachers knew who was bound for college and who wasn’t. 

     The kid and I talked and talked. By the end of the semester, we were on a first-name basis. He was Joey and I was Danny. Then, the semester finished, and he was gone, off to a new adventure. We’d see each other on the school ground from time to time. No matter how many friends surrounded him, he'd always come up to me, shake my hand, and say "hi." I’m not a hundred percent sure, but he seemed to have a smile he didn’t have when we first met. It was also, then, that I gave serious consideration to becoming a teacher, thanks to a kid I once mentored.

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Paletero Man/¡Que Paletero tan Cool!

By Lucky Diaz 

Illustrated by Micah Player 

Translated by Dr. Carmen Tafolla 



Publisher:  HarperCollins Espanol; Bilingual edition

Language:  English

Hardcover:  32 pages

ISBN-10:  0063216353

ISBN-13:  978-0063216358



With the English and Spanish text side by side on the page, this bilingual edition of the vibrant picture book celebrating the strength of community and the tastes of summer is ideal for bilingual readers as well as Spanish speakers learning English and vice versa. By Latin Grammy-winning musician Lucky Diaz and celebrated artist Micah Player!


Ring! Ring! Ring!


Can you hear his call? 

Paletas for one!

Paletas for all! 


¡Vengan a comprar!

Paleta para uno 

¡o pa’ to’a la vecindad!


Follow along with our narrator as he passes through his busy neighborhood in search of the Paletero Man. But when he finally catches up with him, our narrator’s pockets are empty. Oh no! What happened to his dinero? It will take the help of the entire community to get the tasty treat now.


Full of musicality, generosity, kindness, and ice pops, this book is sure to satisfy fans of Thank You, Omu! and Carmela Full of Wishes.


Includes an author’s note from Lucky Diaz and a link to a live version of the Lucky Band’s popular song that inspired the book.


A Junior Library Guild Selection!




“A wonderfully executed treat of a book with a sweet community focus.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)


“Depicts wonderful examples of kindness, community, and delicious paletas.”—Booklist (starred review)



Lucky Diaz is a bilingual, songwriting, taco-eating, multi–Latin Grammy Award–winning, Grammy-nominated and six-time Emmy-nominated musician, children’s television personality and author. His work has been praised by NPR, Billboard, People, and the New York Times. He is a Parent’s Choice Gold Award and NAPPA Award winner. In 2020, his album Buenos Diaz was named an official selection of notable works for children by the American Library Association. Lucky’s debut picture book, Paletero Man, has been celebrated with starred reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, Publishers Weekly, and ALA Booklist. He currently lives in a house on a hill in Los Angeles with his wife, Alisha, daughter, Indiana, and their dog, Django.




Micah Player began his career designing and illustrating for Paul Frank Industries in Southern California. He is the author of Chloe, Instead and the illustrator of several books and games for children, including Paletero Man by Lucky Diaz. He lives in a little house beneath a giant tree in the Utah mountains, with a lovely schoolteacher named Stephanie. They are the parents of two rad kids, one Yorkshire terrier, and several Casio keyboards.



Tuesday, August 29, 2023

First Of Its Kind: Biography of a Raza Laureate y Más

Review: Francisco A. Lomelí, Osiris Aníbal Gómez, Eds. Juan Felipe Herrera. Migrant, Activist, Poet Laureate. Tucson: UofA Press, 2023

Michael Sedano

Someone has to be first. Someone, or someones, have to be the first editors to compile the first critical collection of scholarship centered around Juan Felipe Herrera. 

Editors Francisco Lomelí and Osiris Gómez became those someones with the June 2023 publication of the first critical survey of the extensive works scholars have produced about the first raza U.S. Poet Laureate, and before that honor, the first raza California Poet Laureate, Juan Felipe Herrera.

I say, "Raza," not "Chicano"owing to a point JFH makes in the closing interview, "How Do I Identify Myself."

Recently, we are Latinx. I am more inclined toward a 'humanity' identity. It embraces all 7.9 billion human beings.--there are no divisions, separations, and sectors.

I'm not here to reopen the "battle of the name", nor is this collection of thirteen articles, a biography, an interview, and a bibliography. I will declare, however, that Juan Felipe Herrera is a Chicano Poet no matter the lexical divides we impose upon ourselves. And "Chicano Poet" is the ethos assigned the subject by the various scholars collected herein.

Part I offers "Critical Perspectives on JFH's Poetics." Only one writer outright accuses Herrera of Chicanismo, Marzia Milazzo's "'To Go into American as I Go into Myself'"Chicana/o Indigeneity, the Indigenous Other, and the Ethnographic Gaze in JFH's _Mayan Drifter_".

1973: Juan Felipe Herrera and Lyn Romero (qepd)

Another Part I writer, María Herrera-Sobek shares a fascinating investigation of neologisms and caló, offering finely-detailed catalogs of Herrera's language and linguistic maneuverings.

2014: JFH leads "the Unity poem" on his last day as California Poet Laureate

Part II, "On Camaraderie and Poetics: Other Authors Reflect on JFH's Impact on Chicano Literature," there's that "Chicano" word again. This section includes a delightful personal essay by Tom Lutz recounting a two-family trip across Iowa where Herrera breaks the monotony creating a conceptual quest for the title "Gravy Donuts, 24/7: A Personal Reading of JFH."

2010: the Reunion Floricanto at USC. Herrera opens his reading
with the same piece he opened with in 1973

Part III, "The Child-Poet Within Me: Toward an Analysis of JFH's Children and Young Adult Literary Production focuses not only upon the books but the central role food plays in the Herrera oeuvre, with papers like Manuel Martín-Rodriguez' "JFH's Illustrated Books for Young Readers: Chicano Children's Literature con Cilantro."

2012: speaking as one of the Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets

Part IV offers a potpourri of reading, "Mapping the Sojourn of a Maverick." The "day in the life of" section includes an extensive interview with the Laureate by the Editors. If you want to learn how to be Juan Felipe Herrera, devour this interview. The section includes a worthwhile and adequately detailed biography by Renato Rosaldo. Scholars, and term paper writers perhaps, will deeply appreciate Donaldo W. Urioste's "Bibliography by and on JFH 2022."
2010: the Reunion Floricanto at USC

The Editors express contentment with the books illustration program. There are a few color plates and a smattering of photographs. I have been photographing JFH since he made his debut as a public poet at the 1973 Festival de Flor y Canto at the University of Southern California.

California Poet Laureate and volunteer readers. Sedano in red beret.

UCLA Profe Dr. Concepción Valadez happy to have her book signed by the author.

1973: The future Laureate reads "Let Us Gather In A Flourishing Way"
In the Video below from the 2010 Festival de Flor y Canto: Yesterday • Today • Tomorrow
JFH reads 
"Let Us Gather In A Flourishing Way"

Video © Barrio Dog Productions courtesy of Jesus Treviño 

Monday, August 28, 2023

Interview of Mario Duarte by Xánath Caraza

Interview of Mario Duarte by Xánath Caraza


Who is Mario Duarte? 


I am a Mexican American poet and fiction writer born and raised in Western Illinois.  My family has lived in the Midwest for over a hundred years and my family and Mexican culture is an important part of the foundation of who I am and informs my interests, topics, and my outlook.


As a child, who first introduced you to reading? 


My mother guided me through my first readings. She would read to me before bed, and often recited poems from memory that she learned in grade school. My mother told me that even as a very young child I showed a great interest in books, and I remember reading Little Golden Books.


How did you first become a poet? 


In my first year of college at the University of Iowa, I enrolled in Interpretation of Literature, which sparked my interest in English and writing and I even wrote some sonnets. Soon, I became an English major, and after a couple years started taking creative writing classes. At first, I mostly wrote short stories, but after my first poetry writing class, I was hooked and have never stopped writing poetry. I am a graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop where I studied and wrote poetry. About a dozen years ago, I started writing short stories again.


Iowa Writes Workshop

What else would you like to share with La Bloga readers?


I divide my time writing between short stories and poetry. In January 2024, my micro poetry collection To the Death of the Author will be published by La Resistencia Press, and in April 2024, my short story collection Monkeys will be published by the Ice Cube Press.


The following poems were inspired by time spent in Anton Chico, New Mexico, summer 2023, when wildfires were raging nearby.


I Am Not My Father’s Dream


counting smoke plumes

on the mesa horizon

while yucca spire buds

 remain un-blossomed.


Between rocks guarding

the front door, a sunflower

stalk bends. I welt too.

Yellow flames wake the air.


Am I the elk rushing

out of the forest,

on fire, moaning into

hot wind while flames lick


my ankles, my torso?

Today is iron red,

a fiery dust

devil swirling us.


A hummingbird flits,

beats by my head, pauses.

I bite my tongue,

salt tides in my mouth.


I raise a hand, high,

but its zeros off, why? —

yellow smoke hammers

every last mesa away.



Ricardo from his Adobe Says


See the rusty horseshoe

embedded in the threshold—fading.


Listen to the screeching

of the turkey out back.


 Place your eye to the pane,

soon nothing but darkness.


A tear does not retrace

a trail back into the eye.


On three sides of the sky,

plumes of wildfire fly.


Sunlight ghosts a chemtrail

pointing straight down at us.


The sentence is mine, yours,

a string of dry chiles.


Slow down, like the pendulum

inside the mantle clock.


Conquistadors used crossbows,

long daggers, and spears—time


is a rotting horse, a tale

of history, closing distance.



Mario Duarte is Mexican American writer of poetry and short stories. He grew up in Western Illinois, and his family has lived in the Midwest for over a hundred years. He is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the University of New Hampshire and is an academic advisor for the University of Iowa. His poems and short stories have appeared in American Poetry Review, 2River Review, Abstract Elephant, American Writers Review, Bilingual/Borderless, Digging Through the Fat, Lunch Ticket, Pank, Rigorous, Sky Island Journal, Plainsongs, Write Launch and Typishly. In January of 2024, his micro poetry collection To the Death of the Author will be published by La Resistencia Press. In April of 2024, his short story collection Monkeys will be published by the Ice Cube Press.  







Friday, August 25, 2023

Six-Word Mystery

Here's the annual announcement from the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America for the Six-Word Mystery Contest.  Now in its seventh year, this unique writing contest has turned into quite an event.  Participation increases each year, with entries from around the world.  Why not give it a shot?  Details in the announcement.

7th Annual RMMWA Six-Word Mystery Contest

Hemingway made the six-word genre famous with his novel:
For sale. Baby shoes. Never used.

Now's your chance at fame and acclaim! Using only six words, write a mystery that fits one of five categories: Cozy, Hard-Boiled/Noir, Police Procedural, Romance/Lust, and Thriller.

$6.00 to enter one category or submit to all five for $10.

An esteemed panel of judges will select five finalists in each category, and the RMMWA membership will vote for the winners.

Anne Hillerman, NYT Bestselling Author
Linda Landrigan, Editor at Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine
Manuel Ramos, Award-Winning Author
Terrie Wolf, Literary Agent and owner of AKA Literary Management
John Charles of the Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, AZ

Winners of each category will earn a $25 checks.
Overall winner will be awarded $100 in cold, hard cash.
Winners and finalists will be published in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine.

Last Year’s Winners
***Overall & Police Procedural: Magician escapes gallows when witness vanishes. -Rita A. Popp
Cozy: Cause of death: folding fitted sheet. -KD Horton
Hard-Boiled/Noir: Trouble finds me. Redhead, this time. -Eric Yoder
Romance/Lust: Too many husbands. Just enough funerals. -Matthew Porter
Thriller: Born triplets. But three’s a crowd. -Twist Phelan

Dates for Submission

September 1, 2023 to October 7, 2023 at midnight. Beginning September 1, find a full list of rules and a submission form on our website:

You don't have to be a member to enter.

One mystery. Six words. Good luck!


Manuel Ramos writes crime fiction. Read his latest story, Northside Nocturne, in the award-winning anthology Denver Noir, edited by Cynthia Swanson, published by Akashic Books. 

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Chicanonautica: Colonial Mentality in Other Worlds

  by Ernest Hogan

At first, I thought A Journey in Other Worlds: A Romance of the Future would be an example of antediluvian space opera, and it started off with explorers on Jupiter, hunting kaiju-like beasts.

I settled down to enjoy pulpy action and obsolete science, but then there’s an entire chapter explaining a movement to straighten the Earth’s axis and the improvements it would cause. Talk about climate change! Was this humor? Satire?

Turns out it's quite serious.

Taking place in the year 2000, wealthy American entrepreneurs have brought progress to the world. The guys on the expedition, along with developing an interplanetary vehicle that uses a gravity-blocking metal similar to the one in H.G. Wells’ First Men in the Moon (Journey was published in 1898, H.G.’s book was first serialized in The Strand Magazine from November 1900 to June 1901). The future looks bright and they are willing to take credit for it.

The author, John Jacob Astor IV, of the wealthy Astor family, was such a man, an inventor as well as a real estate developer, investor,and lieutenant colonel in the Spanish-American war. He was also an inventor of, among other things, a “vibratory disintegrator” for producing gas from peat moss. A model for his characters and today’s tech billionaires, he was worth around $87 million ($2.64 billion in 2022 dollars) when he died in the sinking of the Titanic. 

In a flashback that gives the backstory of the expedition, the crew sings the praises of progress and capitalism, and the fact that Christianity is dominating the Earth, and white people who speak English are the coming thing:

“English, as we have seen, is already the language of 600,000,000 people, and the number is constantly increasing through its adoption by the numerous races of India, where, even before the close of the last century, it was about as important as Latin during the greatness of Rome, and by the fact that the Spanish and Portuguese elements in Mexico and Central and South America show a constant tendency to die out, much as the population of Spain fell from 30,000,000 to 17,000,000 during the nineteenth century. As this goes on, in the Western hemisphere, the places left vacant are gradually filled by the more progressive Anglo-Saxons, so that it looks as if the study of ethnology in the future would be very simple.”

A variation of the “Vanishing Americans” theory that I kept hearing about when I was a kid. The opposite of the current fears over the Border, and what I once heard a British tourist say in Oaxaca, “They breed like rabbits, you know.”

It’s the colonial mentality that Fela Aníkúlápó Kuti sang about.

Having determined that Venus and Mars are uninhabitable, they set off for Jupiter. That turns out to be a giant Earth, but without gravity like our planet. They see it as ripe for colonization, or development, as they say these days:

“How I should like to mine those hills for copper, or drain the swamps to the south!" exclaimed Col. Bearwarden. “The Lake Superior mines and the reclamation of the Florida Everglades would be nothing to this.”

“Any inhabitants we may find here have so much land at their disposal that they will not need to drain swamps on account of pressure of population for some time," put in the doctor.

Of course, a big planet means big life forms. Soon they are hunting mastodons, dinosaurs, and other creatures that are even larger than they would be on Earth. And the monsters turn out to be good eating.

Imagine the colonies that would come into being: slaughterhouses, strip mines, factories, and suburbs with restaurants and fast food joints specializing in dinosaur steaks, hamburgers, and tacos!

They also find beasts with limbs neatly sliced off, and speculate:

“By all the gods!” exclaimed Bearwarden, “it is easy to see the method in this; the hunters have again cut off only those parts that could be easily rolled. These Jovian fellows must have weapons compared with which the old scythe chariots would be but toys, with which they amputate the legs of their victims. We must see to it that their scimitars do not come too near to us, and I venture to hope that in our bullets they will find their match.”

However, they do not run into the giant Jovian hunters.

If this all wasn’t enough, they go to Saturn, where they find dragons, and the spirits of dead people from Earth. One of the guys finds an old girlfriend from college. Not the afterlife that Christian fundamentalist are hard selling these days, more like the Spiritualism movement of the time. Astor does his best to give it all a scientific rationale.

Before laughing, proto-Afrofuturist Sun Ra always said, straight-faced, that he was from Saturn, one of Ray Bradbury’s most famous stories is “Mars is Heaven,” lots of folks interpreted the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey as being about divine intervention, Gene Roddenberry’s first concept for a Star Trek movie had the Enterprise finding God, and I have personally met people who believe that the occupants of UFOs–excuse me–UAPs are not extraterrestrial aliens, but angels.

People have a way of fitting their spiritual beliefs into whatever futuristic, sci-fi reality they find themselves living in.

Too bad Astor was on the Titanic, his later ideas about the future and space travel would have been amusing.

Ernest Hogan is the Father of Chicano Sci-Fi, his first story collection, Pancho Villa’s Flying Circus is coming soon.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Jovita Wore Pants: The Story of a Mexican Freedom Fighter

By Aida Salazar

Illustrated by Molly Mendoza 



Publisher: Scholastic Press (March 7, 2023)

Language: English

Hardcover: 48 pages

ISBN-10: 1338283413

ISBN-13: 978-1338283419



The remarkable true story of Jovita Valdovinos, a Mexican revolutionary who disguised herself as a man to fight for her rights!


Jovita dreamed of wearing pants! She hated the big skirts Abuela made her wear. She wanted to scale the tallest mesquite tree on her rancho, ride her horse, and feel the wind curl her face into a smile


When her father and brothers joined the Cristero War to fight for religious freedom, Jovita wanted to go, too. Forbidden, she defied her father’s rules – and society’s – and found a clever way to become a trailblazing revolutionary, wearing pants!


This remarkable true story about a little-known maverick Mexican heroine is brought vividly to life by her great-niece and Américas Award–winner Aida Salazar, and Eisner Award–honoree Molly Mendoza.





 “A young Mexican freedom fighter proves that traditional gender roles aren’t important―heart is. Gracefully told, with deft use of figurative language, the story is mesmerizing . . . focusing on one incredibly relatable, resolute individual. The illustrations are replete with vivid hues and bold brushstrokes that convey energy and movement. Bravery and determination prevail in this inspiring tale of unconventional leadership.” ― Kirkus Reviews, starred review


 “A gorgeous picture book about a groundbreaking woman who fought for gender equality and made a mark on Mexican history. . . . This telling hits the perfect balance of lively and lyrical, giving readers the sense that this larger-than-life legend is worthy of awe and celebration. The empowering message that young people should cast gender-limiting stereotypes and barriers aside to do what’s right will feel revelatory for ­readers. ­Mendoza’s magnificent artwork . . . perfectly match[es] Valdovinos’s sweeping story. Readers will be able to feel the wind on their faces as she gallops on her horse and accomplishes great feats.” ― School Library Journal, starred review


“Salazar’s exquisite prose shows how these clandestine escapades enriched and strengthened Valdovinos. . . . The book deftly captures Valdovinos’ dynamic metamorphosis into a warrior in a series of stunning spreads. . . . Mendoza’s illustrations are a whirlwind of color and energy.” ― BookPage, starred review


“The illustrations are bold, dramatic, and dynamic, featuring fiery and colorful drawings which complement the text well. Young readers will be captivated by Jovita's actions and the story of her life. . . . This is an exciting adventure story and will make for a good read aloud for Women's History Month or a study of Mexican history.” ― School Library Connection, recommended


“Painterly brushwork in Mendoza’s ink and digital illustrations emphasizes boldness and movement with strong colors that swirl and blend together, accompanying poetic text.” ― Publishers Weekly



Aida Salazar is an award-winning author and arts activist whose writings for adults and children explore issues of identity and social justice. She is the author of the middle-grade verse novels The Moon Within (International Latino Book Award Winner), Land of the Cranes (Américas Award Winner), the picture book anthology, In the Spirit of a Dream, and the picture book biography Jovita Wore Pants: The Story of a Mexican Freedom Fighter. She is a founding member of Las Musas, a Latinx kidlit debut author collective. Her short story "By the Light of the Moon" was adapted into a ballet production by the Sonoma Conservatory of Dance and is the first Xicana-themed ballet in history. She lives with her family of artists in a teal house in Oakland, California.


Molly Mendoza is an American illustrator and comics artist who has been captivated by the relationships that she has built with friends, family, and foes alike over the course of her life. Molly sets out to emulate those relationships through her chaotic yet rhythmic style to make some dang-good drawings. Alongside personal/observational narrative, Molly enjoys making images of space travel, plants, ladies, and small dogs. Frequently she can be found working on editorial projects, making comics/zines, and eating hot dogs. Molly is a BFA graduate from the Pacific Northwest College of Art. She has gone on to develop a rich personal art practice, self-publishing numerous comics, as well as working with clients such as The New York Times and The Atlantic. She wrote and illustrated the Ignatz and Eisner Honor-winning graphic novel Skip (Nobrow) and illustrated Freedom We Sing by Amyra León (Flying Eye Books). Molly currently lives in Portland, Oregon. Visit her at