Jovita Wore Pants: The Story of a Mexican Freedom Fighter

by Aida Salazar (Author) Molly Mendoza (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

The remarkable true story of Jovita Valdovinos, a Mexican revolutionary who disguised herself as a man to fight for her rights!

Jovita dreamed of wearing pants! She hated the big skirts Abuela made her wear. She wanted to scale the tallest mesquite tree on her rancho, ride her horse, and feel the wind curl her face into a smile

When her father and brothers joined the Cristero War to fight for religious freedom, Jovita wanted to go, too. Forbidden, she defied her father’s rules – and society’s – and found a clever way to become a trailblazing revolutionary, wearing pants!

This remarkable true story about a little-known maverick Mexican heroine is brought vividly to life by her great-niece and Américas Award–winner Aida Salazar, and Eisner Award–honoree Molly Mendoza.

Select format:

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review
Bravery and determination prevail in this inspiring tale of unconventional leadership.

School Library Journal

Starred Review

Gr 2-5--A gorgeous picture book about a groundbreaking woman who fought for gender equality and made a mark on Mexican history. Told by the subject's great niece and based on her memoir, this biography centers around Jovita Valdovinos, a young woman who longed to wear pants and follow in her brothers' and father's footsteps as they revolted against the socialist Mexican government that took away citizens' right to practice their religion freely. The daring and courageous teenager went against her family's wishes, cut off her hair, wore pants, renamed herself Juan, and led fellow peasants in the Cristeros War (1926-29). This telling hits the perfect balance of lively and lyrical, giving readers the sense that this larger-than-life legend is worthy of awe and celebration. The empowering message that young people should cast gender-limiting stereotypes and barriers aside to do what's right will feel revelatory for readers. Mendoza's magnificent artwork was composed using digital brushes and color; bright, jewel-toned images seem to leap off the page, perfectly matching Valdovinos's sweeping story. Readers will be able to feel the wind on their faces as she gallops on her horse and accomplishes great feats. Back matter includes a more detailed account of Valdovinos's life, author and artist's notes, and archival photos. VERDICT Purchase this outstanding picture book biography for all nonfiction collections.--Shelley M. Diaz

Copyright 2023 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly

The defiant courage of Mexican freedom fighter Jovita Valdovinos (1911-1996), Salazar's distant great-aunt, drives this expressive tribute, which begins with a child who prefers trousers to skirts. When Valdovinos's Papá joins the Cristeros--"the revolutionaries fighting for their rights against the Federation"--she longs to accompany him. The fighting soon comes to her, with saturated pink and red scenes depicting her home's destruction and candid prose describing her later assault by government soldiers ("No matter how they hurt her, she stayed strong as the mountain"). After her brothers and father are killed, Valdovinos dons overalls, renames herself Juan, and reignites the revolution, leading a peasant army for six years until a truce is reached. Painterly brushwork in Mendoza's ink and digital illustrations emphasizes boldness and movement with strong colors that swirl and blend together, accompanying poetic text. Back matter offers historical context behind the lengthy story, and photographs of its subject. Ages 6-9. (Mar.)

Copyright 2023 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

Praise for Jovita Wore Pants:

"The illustrations are bold, dramatic, and dynamic, featuring fiery and colorful drawings which complement the text well. Young readers will be captivated by Jovita's actions and the story of her life. . . . This is an exciting adventure story and will make for a good read aloud for Women's History Month or a study of Mexican history." — School Library Connection, recommended

Distinctions and Praise for Land of the Cranes:

2020 Américas Award Winner

Jane Addams Children's Book Award Honor Book

New York Public Library's Best Books of 2020

Northern California Book Award Finalist

California Library Association — Beatty Award Winner

Charlotte Huck Award Honor Book

Rise: A Feminist Book Project List

* "Powerful... lyrical... soaring." — Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"Some books are beautifully written. Others are vitally important. Land of the Cranes is both. Quite simply, a must-read." — Linda Sue Park, Newbery Medalist and New York Times bestselling author of A Single Shard

"Aida Salazar is one of the most important new voices in children's literature. Land of the Cranes is a novel that uplifts, empowers, and soars. This book belongs in every classroom." — Erin Entrada Kelly, Newbery Award-winning author of Hello, Universe

"In a time of chaos, Land of the Cranes rises above the clouds of confusion and sings a skillful, migratory song; its sorrowful lament, a tearful message—Awaken! Awaken! Let love lead to change." — Guadalupe García McCall, Pura Belpré Award Winner of Under the Mesquite

"Aida Salazar takes heartache and despair and is able to weave a lyrical narrative that confronts one of the greatest human rights violations on U.S. soil in recent memory." — Isabel Quintero, author of Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor Book My Papi Has a Motorcycle

Praise for The Moon Within:

* "A worthy successor to Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret set in present-day Oakland... Salazar's verse novel is sensitive and fresh... An authentically middle school voice and diverse Latinx cast make this book a standout." — Kirkus Reviews, starred review

* "An excellent addition for upper middle grade and middle school readers, especially for maturing tweens in the midst of puberty." — School Library Journal, starred review

"This story is told in beautiful poems... A lovely, relatable story... The words really use up the space on the pages in creative ways, and the author reveals cultural aspects of Latinx (especially Xicana) and Caribbean peoples in rich detail." — Booklist

"Lyrical... The characters leap to life and eloquently evoke the passion and pain of a girl's coming-of-age. Absolutely beautiful, reverent, and intensely personal, the book would make a valued gift for pre-teen readers, especially a young Latina." — School Library Connection

"This is a fascinating tale that blends ancestral traditions from two cultures, while portraying modern dilemmas. Salazar's poetry is as lovely and graceful as the dance scenes." — Margarita Engle, National Young People's Poet Laureate and Newbery Honor-winning author of The Surrender Tree

"With conga-pulsed lyrics, Aida Salazar pulls us into the coming of age of eleven year Celi. . . here is the liberation verse our youth and all have been waiting for-Brava-Bravo!" — Juan Felipe Herrera, U.S. Poet Laureate and author of Jabberwalking

"Aida Salazar has reached deep into our indigenous past to explore in beautiful, poignant poetry what it means to become a woman at the intersection of community and self. Rooted in ancestral lore yet vibrantly modern, The Moon Within is a touching, powerful, and important novel in verse." — David Bowles, Pura Belpré Honor-winning author of The Smoking Mirror

"In a vivid, magical debut, Aida Salazar's lyrical poetry deftly pulls you into Celi's vibrant world as she reluctantly dances towards womanhood, adjusting to the drumbeats of first love and true friendship while exploring her ancestral roots as she finds her role within family and community." - Naheed H. Senzai, award-winning author of Shooting Kabul and Escape from Aleppo

"Lovely and amazing... a heartbreaker, in every wonderful way. Poignant, funny, and deeply moving." — Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, author of Eighth-Grade Superzero and coauthor of Naomis Too

Aida Salazar
Aida Salazar es una autora galardonada y activista de las artes, cuyos textos para adultos y niños exploran temas de identidad y justicia social. Es autora de las novelas en verso de grado medio, y aclamadas por la crítica, The Moon Within/La luna dentro de mí y Land of the Cranes/La tierra de las grullas. Sus siguientes libros incluyen la antología en libro ilustrado In the Spirit of a Dream: 13 Stories of American Immigrants of Color (otoño 2021), la biografía ilustrada Jovita Wore Pants: The Story of a Revolutionary Fighter/Jovita llevaba pantalones: La historia de una mexicana que luchó por la libertad (otoño 2022), la novela de grado medio A Seed in the Sun/Una semilla al sol (2022) y la antología de grado medio The Gift: Writings on Menstruation de MG Authors of Color (2022). Aida es miembro fundador de LAS MUSAS, un colectivo de autores Latinx nuevos que escriben para niños. Su historia, "By the Light of the Moon", fue adaptada a una producción de ballet del Conservatorio de Danza de Sonoma y es el primer ballet con temática xicana de la historia. Ella vive con su familia de artistas en una casa verde azulada en Oakland, CA.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Scholastic Press
Publication date
March 20, 2023
BISAC categories
JNF007120 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Biography & Autobiography | Women
JNF038070 - Juvenile Nonfiction | People & Places | Mexico
Library of Congress categories
Women revolutionaries
Cristero Rebellion, 1926-1929
Valdovinos Medina, Jovita

Subscribe to our delicious e-newsletter!