Meet Yuyi Morales, illustrator of the 2004 Jane Addams Children’s Book Award winning title for younger children, ‘Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez.’
Read a summary of the book
Cesar Chavez was an American hero, a labor activist who worked tirelessly to improve working conditions for the migrant farm workers of California. In Krull’s picture book biography, we first meet Chavez as a small boy, enjoying his life on his family’s ranch in Arizona. It was not until he was ten years old that a drought destroyed the ranch and forced his family to move to California, where his life changed dramatically. He grew up alongside thousands of other Mexican and Mexican American laborers and experienced firsthand the discrimination and poor working conditions faced by migrant workers. In school he was forced to speak only English and eventually left before finishing his education. As he grew older, he became more hopeful that he could fight for reform, and eventually organized The National Farm Workers Association. Through strikes, marches, and non-violent demonstrations, Chavez and NFWA were instrumental in improving both pay and working conditions for California’s grape workers. In 1965, Chavez negotiated the first “contract for farm workers in American History.” Morales’s lush artwork, done mostly with richly colored oil paintings, contributes to the depth of this story. Her stylized illustrations show Chavez at several stages in his life, his image getting literally larger and more powerful on each page. The final page acknowledges that Chavez’s work was just the beginning of many years of struggle for justice. Morales’s accompany painting, showing Chavez looking up at a beautiful starry sky, will leave readers feeling hopeful. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin – Madison, 2004
Watch and listen to ‘Harvesting Hope’ read aloud. Learn about Cesar Chavez’s childhood days, the time before the drought that changed everything for him and his family. Be sure to look at each page carefully. How does Yuyi interpret the story in her illustrations? How would the story be different if you only read the words?
Learn more of who Cesar Chavez was in this short biography: Cesar Chavez – American Civil Rights Activist.
Now spend time with Yuyi and learn about her first days in the United States and how she became a children’s book illustrator. Focus on the first two questions she is asked, but certainly enjoy her answer to the third question too! Q&A with Yuyi Morales
Now Let’s Get To Next Steps!
Guiding questions for your reading, writing, thinking and acting:
Look again at the first pages of ‘Havesting Hope.’ Do you see ways that Yuyi depicted Cesar’s early days that connect with her own growing up in Mexico? How would such a happy childhood experience be helpful to someone like Cesar who went on to care for and fight for others? Notice the change in feeling that happens on the last page of the excerpt. How did Yuyi show this change visually? Explore this process with some drawing of your own! Fold a piece of paper in half. On one side, you will depict a happy scene and on the other an unhappy one. Give some thought to what your two scenes will be. If possible choose something from your own life. It doesn’t have to be dramatic, although it’s fine if you want it to be. How will you show the happiness? With what colors, with what images? Have fun with this; it doesn’t have to be realistic! Yuyi uses magical images all the time! How will you show the unhappiness? With what colors, with what images? If you were to make a third drawing that brought the beginnings of happiness to the unhappy drawing, how would you do this?
Cesar wanted the United Farm Workers (UFW) to not be only concerned with wages, hours at work, and working conditons but also the dilemnas of access to housing, healthcare and education. All these are the basics of what human beings need for their well being. Think about what you know about each of these needs for yourself, your family members, and members of the larger community. Who, in your awareness, does not have one or more of these needs being met? Have a conversation with an adult in your world and ask them about who in their awareness doesn’t have one or more of these needs met. Connect with your sense of respect and care, like Cesar did, for those who are struggling, whether those people are close at hand or further afield. Write a paragraph or two about those who you know who are not able to access what they need and about the changes you wish for them. Writing out your wishes plants seeds of hope and is a first step to finding ways to help bring about change.