The Upside Down Boy/El nino de cabeza
By Juan Felipe Herrera

The Upside Down Boy/El Niño Boca Arriba
Text by Juan Felipe Herrera, Illustrations by Elizabeth Gomez
Children’s Book Press, 2000

Published by Children’s Book Press of San Francisco, “The Upside Down Boy” is Juan Felipe Herrera’s memoir of the year his migrant family settled down so that he could go to school for the first time. Jaunito is bewildered by the new school and misses the warmth of country life. Everything he does feels upside down: He eats lunch when it’s recess, he goes out to play when it’s time for lunch, and his tongue feels like a rock when he speaks English. But his sensitive teacher and loving family help him find his voice through poetry, art, and music.


  • 2001-2002 Texas Bluebonnet Award Master List (TX Library Association)
  • Smithsonian’s Notable Books for Children, 2000


Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 2-5-In rhythmic, flowing language, Herrera uses startlingly apt images to tell the story of a young Hispanic boy’s adjustment to an Anglo school. Juanito is worried about entering a new school, afraid that his tongue will “turn into a rock.” Indeed, on the first day, this is what happens. He feels frightened, shy, and “de cabeza,” upside down. Fortunately, his teacher recognizes his musical and verbal abilities, and with her encouragement and the support of his family, Juanito not only fits in, but shines. Based on Herrera’s own experiences in third grade, this positive look at the process of adjustment is beautifully complemented by Gómez’s brilliantly colored, primitive acrylic illustrations… El niño is an excellent addition to a growing body of work on the experience of adjusting to life in a new culture.

Ann Welton, Terminal Park Elementary School, Auburn, WA
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.


For this book, Elizabeth created 15 original paintings using acrylic on paper. Click on the tiny paintings below to view the illustrations.