A vivid depiction of the early injustices encountered by a young Mexican-American girl in San Antonio in the 1920’s. Emma Tenayuca learns to care deeply about poverty and hunger during a time when many Mexican Americans were starving to death and working unreasonably long hours for 3 cents/hour in the city’s pecan-shelling factories. Through astute perception, caring, and personal action, Emma begins to get involved, and eventually, at the age of 21, leads 12,000 workers in the first significant historical action in the Mexican-American struggle for justice. Emma’s story serves as a model for young and old alike about courage, compassion, and the role everyone can play in making the world more fair. Ages 5–7.
About The Author
Carmen Tafolla is one of the most anthologized of all Latina poets, with poems for both adults and children appearing in more than 200 anthologies. She is the author of the Bluebonnet Award-nominated Baby Coyote and the Old Woman. Sharyll Teneyuca is a social justice lawyer and the niece of Emma Tenayuca. Terry Ybáñez is the illustrator of Christmas Tree: El Árbol de Navidad and Hairs/Pelitos. They all live in San Antonio, Texas.
Read Aloud Tips
- Set the setting of New Mexico in the 1920s. What was it like for Mexicans, Americans, and Mexica-Americans during that time?
- As you read, ask students to reflect on Emma’s actions. What drives her? What is she passionate about?
- Pair this book with readings about the current life of Mexican-Americans. How have things changed? How are they different?
“Tells of Ms. Tenayuca’s life, not as an organizer, orator, or leader but as a girl whose sharp mind and compassion for others sows the seeds of activism.” — National Catholic Reporter