Review of Soldier for Equality: José de la Luz Sáenz and the Great War

Soldier for Equality: José de la Luz Sáenz and the Great War
by Duncan Tonatiuh; illus. by the author
Primary, Intermediate    Abrams    40 pp.
9/19    978-1-4197-3682-7    $18.99

Growing up Mexican American in Texas at the turn of the twentieth century meant racism and discrimination to José de la Luz Sáenz: the first word in the book is “Greaser!” hurled at young Luz by another boy (whom Luz then tackles to the ground). Luz grows up, marries, has children, becomes a teacher, and goes off to fight in World War I, where his facility with languages — he was already fluent in Spanish, and has now also learned French — allows him to act as a translator. Despite his serving his country faithfully, injustice and inequality persist when he returns home, but Luz never stops fighting for what’s right. He remains politically active in various organizations and helps create the influential League of United Latin American Citizens. In this informative and inspiring story, Tonatiuh’s signature style is on full display: digitally manipulated colors and textures complement thin lines and flat shapes, inspired by the artistic style of Mexico’s indigenous Mixtec people. Moreover, Tonatiuh’s obvious pride in Latinx heritage, coupled with that heritage’s sociopolitical undertones, places his body of work in the broader tradition of Latinx political art — and this fine picture-book biography is the latest iteration. An author’s note, sources, timelines, a bibliography, an index, and a glossary are appended.

From the January/February 2020 Horn Book Magazine.

Jonathan Hunt
Jonathan Hunt is the coordinator of library media services at the San Diego County Office of Education.

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