Juan Bobo Goes to Work: A Puerto Rican Folk Tale


What can you do with a boy who tries to do things right but only leaves disaster in his wake?

Laugh—that's what! Readers everywhere will love to laugh at the hilarious antics of the ever-blundering Juan Bobo, Puerto Rico's most celebrated fold character.

In this rollicking Juan Bobo tale, our hero sets out to find work at the farm and the grocery. Although the tasks are simple and the directions couldn't be ...

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What can you do with a boy who tries to do things right but only leaves disaster in his wake?

Laugh—that's what! Readers everywhere will love to laugh at the hilarious antics of the ever-blundering Juan Bobo, Puerto Rico's most celebrated fold character.

In this rollicking Juan Bobo tale, our hero sets out to find work at the farm and the grocery. Although the tasks are simple and the directions couldn't be clearer, he always find a way to bungle things up as only a character whose name means "Simple John" could!

Although he tries to do exactly as his mother tells him, foolish Juan Bobo keeps getting things all wrong.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
The simpleton hero of Puerto Rican folklore returns in this tale, which echoes the misadventures of other foolish characters in European and African traditional stories. Juan tries "very, very hard to do things right." But somehow, he is always following the wrong instructions. Sent by his mother to find work, he does one silly thing after another, from putting milk in a burlap sack to carrying cheese on his head in the hot sun. Dragging a ham home by a string, however, brings him good fortune at last, by making the sad, sick daughter of a rich man laugh herself well. Cepeda uses bright colors appropriate for the Puerto Rican setting, painting with visible brush strokes that emphasize the vitality and humor without really making sport of the most appealing hero. Forms are simplified, gestures a bit exaggerated, and local color is added with the landscape, vegetation, and clothing. A glossary is included of the Spanish that is sprinkled throughout the story, although the word meaning is usually quite clear. The authors note explains the background and relationship of this tale to similar ones. 2000, HarperCollins Publishers,
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3-Juan Bobo, the Puerto Rican equivalent of Foolish Jack, can't seem to get anything right. Sent off by his mother to find work, he causes one disaster after another, and manages to lose or destroy his payment in a variety of amusing ways. As luck would have it, one of the boy's misadventures brings laughter to the rich man's daughter, and Juan at last receives compensation that he can hold on to. Montes tells her story well, but Cepeda's illustrations steal the show. Using his distinctive, vibrantly colored acrylics, the artist creates a character whose innocence, confusion, and contrition are endearing. The text is heavily peppered with Spanish phrases, but a glossary and an author's note are included. Another lively addition to folktale shelves.-Grace Oliff, Ann Blanche Smith School, Hillsdale, NJ Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The Puerto Rican folk character Juan Bobo, a.k.a."Simple John," who just can't get anything right, trips over a silver lining supplied by Montes (Something's Wicked in These Woods, p. 1287) and set in tropically festive artwork by the illustrator of Captain Bob Sets Sail (p. 640). Shooed out the door to find work and told not to put his wages in his pocket, but to carry them in his hand, Juan Bobo gets a job shelling beans. Though he manages to get even that job wrong, he is paid and promptly shoves the money into his pocket, where it falls through the holes as he walks home. The next day his mother gives him a sack in which to put his payment, but this time his reward is a bucket of milk. He does as commanded, with predictable results. Carry it home on your head next time, she tells him, not knowing his payment for sweeping the grocer's floor will be cheese; it melts in the sun. Tie it up with string next time, she says, but the payment is a ham that Juan Bobo drags homeward, only to have it eaten by the neighborhood cats and dogs. This is Juan Bobo's lot, but Montes is not happy with it; the fool can't simply be a well-meaning comic figure in the tradition of Epaminondas—he ultimately has to deliver. So she adds a Goose Girl touch and works it so that Juan Bobo saves the life of a rich man's daughter and thus food is thereafter no problem. Heroism doesn't sit comfortably on Juan Bobo's shoulders. His gift is that he makes us laugh, and that is more than enough. (author's note) (Picture book. 4-9)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780688162337
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/28/2000
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 644,673
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Lexile: 390L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 9.25 (w) x 11.00 (h) x 0.25 (d)

Meet the Author

Marisa Montes practiced family law and worked in legal publishing before she began writing full-time. Marissa has written several picture books, novels, and chapter books for children. She was born in Puerto Rico and now lives in Walnut Creek, California.

Nacida en San Juan, Puerto Rico, Marisa Montes vivió una fase de trotamundos al desplazarse con su familia a bases militares en Missouri, en Francia, y finalmente, en California. Antes de dedicarse en pleno a escribir libros para niños, Marisa practicó la abogacía y trabajó escribiendo y editando publicaciones de derecho. En la actualidad, vive en el norte de California con su esposo, David Plotkin. Ha escrito varios libros infantiles y también novelas para adolescentes.

Joe Cepeda is the bestselling illustrator of Nappy Hair by Carolivia Herron and What A Truly Cool World by Julius Lester. He, his wife, and their son live in Southern California.

Joe Cepeda es el ilustrador del bestseller Nappy Hair por Carolivia Herron y What A Truly Cool World por Julius Lester. Joe vive en el sur de California con su esposa e hijo.

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 28, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    A laugh out loud book

    I had fun reading this book. It was cute to see the way Juan's mind works (a little reminder of Amelia Bedelia. This is a book that could be read to cheer a young child, or an adult with a young heart. What I liked about this book was the mixed vocabulary in the text, and the glossary at the end of the story. This was an amusing folktale, though I do not think this is a book that is meant to teach any lessons. Juan is a boy with a unique mind and he has a unique way of thinking. I would definitely add this ti my library. --FTD

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2001

    Que viva Juan Bobo!!

    What a wonderful children's book. Actually for those of us who know Juan Bobo from our childhood, it is a joy to venture with him again. The bilingual aspect is perfect for our children and grandchildren who sometimes don't speak or read much Spanish, regardless of age. We at Mi Bohio Puerto Rican Cultural Center in El Paso will be reading it to all, adults and children alike this Saturday evening. We will also have the character Juan Bobo making an appearance and sharing the evening with the patrons. Good job Marisa. Adelante! Judy Vasquez, Director.

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