________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 7. . . .October 16, 2009


Viva Zapata.

Emilie Smith & Margarita Kenefic Tejada. Illustrated by Stefan Czernecki.
Vancouver, BC: Tradewind Books, 2009.
32 pp., hardcover, $16.95.
ISBN 978-1-896555-5.

Subject Headinga:
Zapata, Emiliano, 1879-1919-Juvenile fiction.
Horses-Juvenile fiction.
Thieves-Juvenile fiction.

Kindergarten-grade 3/ Ages 4-8.

Review by Philip Bravo.

** /4



"Why are you all so mean?" Emiliano asked.

"Because we never had enough tortillas to eat when we were little," said Bad Carlos.

"When I grow up," replied Emiliano, "I will help farmers get the land they need to grow food. No one will go hungry. And no one will need to become a bandido."

No bandidos!

The crickets stopped singing. The coyotes in the hills stopped howling.

And the bandidos laughed and laughed every last one of them. They laughed so hard they split their pants. They were having so much fun they didn't notice Emiliano, Lucita and Sombra sneak away, taking with them all the stolen horses.

High above, the moon smiled, lighting the way. She knew. For Emiliano Zapata, this was only the beginning.


Thus concludes this panegyric about a historical figure and a 20th century revolutionary told in the form of a picture book. Viva Zapata is a fictional account of a formative event of Emiliano Zapata's childhood. Emiliano Zapata was the leader of the Mexican Revolution that swept the country at the turn of the previous century. Zapata, as the excerpt suggests, led the movement to redistribute land from wealthy landowners to impoverished campesinos.

     Writing for children between ages 4-8, the authors try to accomplish two tasks: to tell a story about an earnest 10-year-old boy who rescues a herd of horses from ill-tempered "bandidos"; and to describe the origins of Zapata's revolutionary politics. Although the story is amusing, I wonder if children will enjoy the book. Arguably, children between the ages 4-6 will not understand the book's humor which is the central element of the story. I also wonder how caregivers and teachers would explain this complex episode of Mexican history to a child. Yet, parents and teachers of six to eight-year-old children may find this book a useful introduction to poverty or the history of Mexico.

internal art      While the black and white drawings are beautiful, they are also austere and too dramatic. The colorful and ornate illustrations of Czernecki's previous books, especially Bear in the Sky and The Sleeping Bread, may have been more appealing. Parents and children may also find the drawing of a "bandido" shooting a pistol disturbing. Unfortunately, although Viva Zapata is a charming story, the subject matter may not appeal to its intended audience. Despite these reservations, this book may be a useful addition to a large, urban library.


Philip Bravo is a librarian at the Winnipeg Public Library in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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