Joelito’s Big Decision: A Bilingual Book About Living Wages

Joelito's Big Decision

Joelito’s Big Decision

Joelito’s Big Decision/La Gran Decision de Joelito by Ann Berlak with illustrations by Daniel Camacho

 

In this bilingual book for kids, Ann Berlak tackles some very big topics: corporate greed, living wages for workers, and workers’ protests. She tells the story through the eyes of Joelito, a young boy whose family has more than enough. Each Friday, the family eats at “MacMann’s” restaurant. But in this particular weekly trip to the restaurant, Joelito and his family encounter some of his classmates and his classmates’ parents protesting wages paid to those who work at MacMann’s. Joelito’s classmates’ parents work at MacMann’s and he knows, based on conversations with his classmates, that they do not make enough to provide for all their children’s needs. Joelito decides that instead of eating at that restaurant—or even another one that is exempt from protest because it does pay a fair wage to its workers—he will join his classmates and their parents in protest.

 

Though the text suggests answers that may be too simplistic to cover the complicated and nuanced realities of these topics, it does provide children with several important things: the impetus for protest, the need for more equitable wages across the board for all people, and the reality that children have the ability to help seek justice for workers. The beautiful illustrations emerge out of a specifically Latino cultural context, which is completely appropriate since the majority of workers in restaurants like these are Latinos. The book combines relevant and timely issues, culturally appriopriate illustrations, and bilingual text;  definitely recommended for libraries and schools across the board. For teachers, I’d recommend pairing this with another bilingual text on workers’ rights, unions, and protests: Si Se Puede: LA Janitors’ Strike by Diana Cohn.

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