¡Sí, Se Puede! / Yes, We Can!: Janitor Strike in L.A.

¡Sí, Se Puede! / Yes, We Can!: Janitor Strike in L.A.

¡Sí, Se Puede! / Yes, We Can! is a bilingual fictional story set against the backdrop of the successful janitors’ strike in Los Angeles in 2000. It tells about Carlitos, whose mother is a janitor. Every night, he sleeps while his mother cleans in one of the skyscrapers in downtown L.A. When she comes home, she waves Carlitos off to school before she goes to sleep. One nigh...

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Title:¡Sí, Se Puede! / Yes, We Can!: Janitor Strike in L.A.
Author:Diana Cohn
Rating:
Edition Language:Spanish

¡Sí, Se Puede! / Yes, We Can!: Janitor Strike in L.A. Reviews

  • Meg

    LOVE this book (and so does my preschooler!). The story of janitors fighting for justice is seen through the eyes of Carlos, a child whose mama is one of the janitors organizing a strike. His mama explains to him why they are striking; then he talks about the strike with his class and learns that some other kids have parents who are on strike as well. He and his teacher and classmates end up making signs and marching with the workers. After the janitors' successful struggle, the book ends with C

    LOVE this book (and so does my preschooler!). The story of janitors fighting for justice is seen through the eyes of Carlos, a child whose mama is one of the janitors organizing a strike. His mama explains to him why they are striking; then he talks about the strike with his class and learns that some other kids have parents who are on strike as well. He and his teacher and classmates end up making signs and marching with the workers. After the janitors' successful struggle, the book ends with Carlos and his mama marching to support other workers fighting for pay raises. I felt this book really told the story on a level a child can understand, and conveyed the important messages and concepts without any jargon.

  • Kelly Grimes

    personal reaction- Growing up, I would go to Mexico all the time with my family, for my grandpa owned a house in Acapulco. By reading this book, i was able to reflect on my childhood and think of all the fun times my family and I shared. This book helped me think of these memories because of the translation of English to Spanish in the book. Walking through the town of Acapulco, i would listen into the fast pace language spoken by the people. This book provides an english and Spanish translation

    personal reaction- Growing up, I would go to Mexico all the time with my family, for my grandpa owned a house in Acapulco. By reading this book, i was able to reflect on my childhood and think of all the fun times my family and I shared. This book helped me think of these memories because of the translation of English to Spanish in the book. Walking through the town of Acapulco, i would listen into the fast pace language spoken by the people. This book provides an english and Spanish translation of the story. This is why i enjoyed the book the most. The illustrations are also colorful and bright that forced me to keep on wanting to read.

    purpose/use in the classroom- This book is a great read aloud to read before many units. First it can be read before discussing places around the world that speaks Spanish. Second, it can also be read before starting a Spanish speaking lesson or unit. It can also be read before a social studies unit when focusing on what strikes are. This book is most appropriate to read to second graders. During this grade, students are learning basic Spanish and are also learning more in social studies units. They will be able to understand the topic of strikes. The vocab used in this book is also simple and clear for these young aged students to understand, for example marching, support, and janitors. But there are some words that students may be unfamiliar with that teachers will have to discuss, for example rallies. Overall this is a great read aloud to teach students to stand up for what they believe in while at the same time learning more about another language.

  • Diego Garcia

    This book tells the story of Carlitos and his family. The mother is a janitor who is fighting for better working conditions that will allow her to support her family. The mother and her co-workers go on strike and win allowing the mother to spend more time with her family. The story of Carlitos is fictional, but the strike and its outcome are factual. There were many aspects of this book that I enjoyed. First, it is a bilingual book written in Spanish and in English. The text is side by side and

    This book tells the story of Carlitos and his family. The mother is a janitor who is fighting for better working conditions that will allow her to support her family. The mother and her co-workers go on strike and win allowing the mother to spend more time with her family. The story of Carlitos is fictional, but the strike and its outcome are factual. There were many aspects of this book that I enjoyed. First, it is a bilingual book written in Spanish and in English. The text is side by side and would allow students that can read Spanish enjoy this story. Second, all of the characters are people of color, but they are not all the same. Some of characters are from Nicaragua and Honduras not just from Mexico. This showed the diversity within the Latino community in Los Angeles. Third, this is the story of a single mother raising her young son. This type of family structure is not often portrayed in mainstream literature. Fourth, the ending is not just a happy one. The mother continues to show solidarity for other workers that are fighting for better working conditions and pay. All of the different layers of the story could lead to interesting conversations with students about social justice issues.

  • Baby Bookworm

    ¡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

    , 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 Carl

    ¡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

    , 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 a two more jobs to make ends meet, and she cannot afford Carlos’ 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 modern-day 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!

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  • RaiseThemRighteous

    ¡Sí, Se Puede! / Yes, We Can! (2005), a bilingual text written by Diana Cohn and illustrated by Francisco Delgado, explores the Los Angeles Janitor Strike of 2010 from the perspective of a family participating in it. The text opens with the mother of a young boy, Carlitos, tucking him into bed before she leaves for work. The boy’s bedroom is tidy and bright, and Delgado’s bold and detailed illustration captures the young boy’s sleepiness and his mother’s l

    ¡Sí, Se Puede! / Yes, We Can! (2005), a bilingual text written by Diana Cohn and illustrated by Francisco Delgado, explores the Los Angeles Janitor Strike of 2010 from the perspective of a family participating in it. The text opens with the mother of a young boy, Carlitos, tucking him into bed before she leaves for work. The boy’s bedroom is tidy and bright, and Delgado’s bold and detailed illustration captures the young boy’s sleepiness and his mother’s love as they share a glance.

    In the next image, it is Carlito’s mother who is sleepy. She is depicted mopping floors in an empty office building, eyelids heavy, as she completes critical but invisible labor. The following morning, Carlitos’ mother is back at the kitchen table, as always, waiting to greet Carlitos when he wakes up. She walks him to the bus before heading home to sleep. Although mother and son are not able to spend as much time together as they would like, Carlitos’ abuelita is present to help raise the young boy. The family of three take good care of one another, providing the reader with a strong image of intergenerational love and support, which is rarely foregrounded in children’s books focused on white families, but is often present in work by people of color and new immigrant literature.

    The cycle of work, sleep, and a little bit of family time, is broken one night when Carlitos’ mother sits the boy on her lap and explains that she cannot take care of him and his abuelita the way she wants to. Even with working extra jobs on the weekend she cannot afford abuelita’s medication. Far from trying to protect Carlitos from the reality of their lives and the social world they inhabit, Carlitos mother explains that her full-time job as a janitor is undervalued and underpaid. Carlitos understands that his mother will join other janitors to strike for more money and better work conditions.

    The next image, and several subsequent ones, are of his mother and other community members on strike. Carlitos’ mother is proud of her work and every night she reads him newspaper articles about the strike. Carlitos is, in turn, proud of his mother. One day he clips out the newspaper articles and takes them to school.

    The classroom is adorned with a “Viva Cesar Chavez” poster, and once the children pass the articles around and start discussing the strike they realize many of their family members are involved. Their teacher, Miss Lopez, shares a personal story about her grandfather being treated “just as if he wasn’t a person” when he came to the US as a farm worker. She explains how, like the janitors, farm workers united to demand a better life, and that their demands were met. Sharing stories about their personal stakes in the strike as well as Miss Lopez’s story of her grandfather’s success, encourages the children to feel like members of a community who can demand change, not isolated individuals whose experiences of poverty and prejudice are the cause of personal or parental shortcomings.

    At home, Carlitos’ mother continues to share stories about the strike, her pride in participating, and awe of the community outpouring of support. One evening, Carlitos sees his mother on TV giving a speech and his pride in her encourages him to find a way to participate.

    The next day he tells his teacher he wants to join the protest against poor wages; many students decide to make posters and join the protest as well. In class, they paint signs demanding justice for janitors and celebrating the important labor they do. Carlitos’ sign reads “I love my Mama! She is a janitor.” The following day, Miss Lopez brings several students on a bus to the downtown LA strike. When Carlitos’ mother sees the children she is so happy she holds back tears. Within a few weeks the strike ends, successfully demonstrated the power of community. Following the strike, Carlitos has a happy dream that a band of mustached angels are singing to his mother as she works.

    Importantly, Cohn makes clear that when the lives of workers are improved the lives of families are improved. She write: “Now my mama smiles a whole lot more. Abuelita’s sore bones feel so much better. She walks with Mama and me to the school bus in the morning. Mama no longer has to clean houses and wash clothes on the weekends. Instead, we go to the park and on our way home, she lets me buy a paleta or a churro from the man who sells sweets on the corner.” In this story of family members and community taking care of each other, lives are seen as richly interconnected.

    Although the text could easily have ended here, it doesn’t. The lesson of community is reiterated at the text’s close. On a Saturday morning, Carlitos’ mother receives a phone call from a person who cleans hotel rooms. Her friend is interested in striking for better pay. Mother informs son that she needs to help the new strikers as others helped her. Later that day, as she heads for the door, Carlitos runs after her, protest sign in hand.

    This is a great book. It’s sure to encourage thoughtful discussion among readers. I particularly appreciate Cohn’s focus on Carlitos’ perspective, which allows her to represent children as agents of social change, community members, and emotionally literate family members. Even more, I enjoyed her subtle ability to show the complexity of labor, particularly invisible labor, like that of nighttime janitors, which is easy to ignore until we are forced to look at it. A very smart text, I certainly plan on adding it to my library, and recommend it for yours.

  • Jessica Martinez

    is a historical fiction book because it is based on an actual janitor’s strike that occurred in Los Angeles in 2000. The book tells the story of a young Hispanic boy named Carlitos who lives with his mom and grandmother. Carlitos’s mom is a janitor who is frustrated that her low wages do not reflect the long hours and effort that her job demands. Consequently, she has decided to go on strike because her meager wages do not allow her to adequately support her family. To help the ja

    is a historical fiction book because it is based on an actual janitor’s strike that occurred in Los Angeles in 2000. The book tells the story of a young Hispanic boy named Carlitos who lives with his mom and grandmother. Carlitos’s mom is a janitor who is frustrated that her low wages do not reflect the long hours and effort that her job demands. Consequently, she has decided to go on strike because her meager wages do not allow her to adequately support her family. To help the janitors on strike, Carlitos and his classmates create signs and join the janitors. Finally, with the community’s support, the janitors receive an increase in wages.

    Most of the characters are Hispanic. However, what is unique about this book is that it demonstrates that there is diversity within this one culture; the characters originate from different Hispanic countries, including Mexico, Nicaragua, and El Salvador. Rather than oversimplifying the lives of the characters, the book presents issues that reflect real-life struggles. Children are constantly provided with things to critically think about and consider because Carlitos’s mom explicitly tells him that her low salary does not allow her to cover all their living expenses or his grandmother’s healthcare. Carlitos’s mom goes on to tell him that she is unable to spend time with him because she must clean other homes during the weekend in order to make ends meet. Because Francisco Delgado, the illustrator, is a Mexican-American, the book’s images accurately depict realistic and convincing Hispanic characters.

    The book is written in Spanish and English, allowing students who are not strong in English to enjoy the story. Additionally, this book allows children to read with their parents who may only speak Spanish. All Spanish terms used are surrounded by sufficient context to allow non-Spanish speakers to figure out what the term means. By using large text fonts and including a Spanish glossary, ¡Sí, Se Puede! may be used in a read aloud or is appropriate for young elementary school children.

  • Rebecca

    Bilingual English/Spanish book about the Justice for Janitors campaign in L.A. in the year 2000. It's told by a fictional boy, Carlitos, but the essay at the end by Luis J. Rodriguez seems to point to a real woman, Dolores Sanchez, as the model for Carlitos' mother, a janitor who becomes a leader of the strike. It's an excellent book for talking about workers' rights, unions, and service jobs.

  • Marie

    "While everyone sleeps, my mama goes to work."

    "She scrubs the bathroom tiles, cleans the tall glass windows, mops and polishes the floors, and sorts and dumps all the trash."

    "Even though I work full time as a janitor, I also have to clean houses and wash clothes on the weekends."

  • Patricia

    I mostly read the Spanish, so proud of myself for that. A great book about an often overlooked part of recent history. Here for supporting unions!

  • Sarah Benson

    This book would be a excellent introduction to issues of protest and social justice for children. It could also be used to introduce the struggles and triumphs of Cesar Chavez as it puts his ideas into a modern context and shows that we are still working for justice and recognition for many. I love the support the characters show for one another and that the story is written in both English and Spanish.

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