Tony Johnston

Books by This Author

Any Small Goodness: A Novel of the Barrio

Age Level: Middle Grade

Meet Arturo and his spirited family as they integrate themselves into a tough L.A. neighborhood. Their story is sprinkled with the good and bad, from the former NBA star that shows up at basketball practice to the menacing gang that keeps appearing on the sidewalks of the neighborhood. Arturo and his family (including feisty Abuelita and their cat, Huitlacoche) meet each moment with resilience, warmth, and humor as they each learn to appreciate "any small goodness" that they find.

Beast Rider

Orange, yellow, and black illustration of a boy standing on top of a train.
Age Level: Middle Grade

Twelve-year-old Manuel leaves his small town in Mexico to join his older brother in Los Angeles. To cross the US border, he must become a “beast rider”—someone who hops on a train. The first time he tries, he is stopped by the Mexican police, who arrest and beat him. When he tries again, he is attacked by a Mexican gang and left for dead. Just when Manuel is ready to turn back, he finds new hope. Villagers clothe and feed him, help him find work, and eventually boost him back onto the train. When he finally arrives in LA and is reunited with his brother, he is elated.

Day of the Dead

Illustrated by: Jeanette Winter
Age Level: 6-9

"Above a small town in Mexico, the sun rises like a great marigold." So begins one family's preparation for El día de los muertos. The children are eager to try just a taste of this and that, but everyone says they must wait until the family is ready to take their offerings to the cemetery for a night of celebration and remembrance. The warmth of this story about one of Mexico's most important traditions shines through the text and illustrations.

Levi Strauss Gets a Bright Idea: A Fairly Fabricated Story of a Pair of Pants

Illustrated by: Stacey Innerst
Age Level: 3-6
Early miners' pants couldn't hold up as they dug for gold when the California gold rush started — until a man named Levi Strauss headed west with a "DANG!" good idea! This tall tale version of how Levis (jeans) came into existence is told with verve and humor in both textured illustration and lighthearted text, ideal for reading aloud. It fills in what little is known about the real man.

My Abuelita

grandma with grandson
Illustrated by: Yuyi Morales
Age Level: 3-6
Language: English, Spanish vocabulary featured

"Abuelita's hair is the color of salt. Her face is as crinkled as a dried chile. She booms out words as wild as blossoms blooming. She stuffs her carcacha — her jalopy — with all the things she needs: a plumed snake, a castle, a skeleton, and more. Her grandson knows he has the most amazing grandmother ever — with a very important job. What does Abuelita do? Readers will enjoying guessing in this story sprinkled with Spanish and infused with love." — Amazon Review

My Mexico

Illustrated by: F. John Sierra
Age Level: 6-9

"Sensitive, soft but bright illustrations in pencil over watercolor depict Mexican scenes in 16 double-page spreads. Printed over the backgrounds are 18 poems in both English and Spanish…The poems are mostly free verse, although there is some use of rhyme. They deal with everyday subjects such as cockroaches or corn, or historical topics such as the Nahuatl language or the disappearance of the Aztecs." — School Library Journal

P is for Piñata: A Mexico Alphabet

Illustrations of children playing with a piñata
Illustrated by: John Parra
Age Level: 6-9

An A-Z tour of our neighbor to the south in P is for Piñata: A Mexico Alphabet. Visit the tomb of a Mayan king, experience the life of the vaquero (Mexican cowboy), attend the world-famous Ballet Folklórico de Mèxico, and sample the everyday treat that was once known as the "food of the gods." From folk art to famous people to the original "hot dog," the treasures of Mexico are revealed in P is for Piñata.

Uncle Rain Cloud

Illustrated by: Fabricio Vanden Broeck
Age Level: 6-9

When Tío Tomás speaks in Spanish and tells his nephew Carlos ancient stories from Mexico, he is animated and happy. When he has to speak in English, however, his bad mood makes him look like a rain cloud. Eventually the two of them find a solution that will allow them to know "twice as much as everyone else!" This realistic story provides an authentic look at the frustration many recent immigrants feel when they are struggling to learn a new language, as well as the opportunities that being bilingual provides.