for before facial hair & maybe after…

30 days of pbDay Nineteen: Big Bushy Mustache

by Gary Soto, illus. Joe Cepeda

Knopf Books, 1998

BushyMustacheLesson13When teacher Mrs. Cortez tells the children to choose their costumes for an upcoming Cinco de Mayo reenactment, Ricky knows exactly what he wants to wear: the big bushy mustache. With the mustache, so much like his father’s, maybe no one will say he looks like his mother anymore. And it’s true that people appear to treat him differently as he wears the mustache home from school, wending his way through a diversely populated neighborhood.

big bushy mustache neighborTrouble comes when he loses the mustache, which really wasn’t his to wear outside of the school reenactment–but you get the doubling going on in the story. He was eager to reenact his father. Ricky sits on his father’s lap and tells him his troubles, and the parents greet him the next morning with a surprising solution.

The illustrations contribute to a comic energy that lend the story its child-likeness. The characterizations are engaging and the movement toward the domestic spaces, the arms of the family, is a movement toward the heart of the story where there is no pretending, no disguising, certainly no place for acting.

big bushy mustache page

Big Bushy Mustache is a lot of fun, while dispensing the right amounts of childhood humor and familial tenderness.


recommending...The relationship of the father/son here brought Alvin Ho to mind; so if you are familiar with Lenore Look’s series, Big Bushy Mustache is one to add to reading times, and vice versa.

of note:  In looking for images, I noticed Big Bushy Mustache is often used in the classroom for educational purposes with a side of play. This may or may not excite you. If it doesn’t, remember that Soto & Cepeda are really quite entertaining and forget mention of classroom guides.


Gary Soto, “born April 12, 1952, was raised in Fresno, California. He is the author of eleven poetry collections for adults, most notably New and Selected Poems, a 1995 finalist for both the Los Angeles Times Book Award and the National Book Award. His poems have appeared in many literary magazines, including Ploughshares, Michigan Quarterly, Poetry International, and Poetry, which has honored him with the Bess Hokin Prize and the Levinson Award and by featuring him in the interview series Poets in Person. He has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. […] In 1999, he received the Literature Award from the Hispanic Heritage Foundation, the Author-Illustrator Civil Rights Award from the National Education Association, and the PEN Center West Book Award for Petty Crimes.” (site’s “bio“)

The catalog of his work is impressive and if you plan it right, your child can grow up with his books from picture book to literary journal.

Joe Cepeda “Born and raised in East Los Angeles, Joe’s serpentine road through college began studying engineering at Cornell and finished with a BFA in Illustration from Long beach State. Only months from leaving school, Joe took his wares to New York and secured a book contract with a publisher after his first meeting—he’s been illustrating books ever since. Joe is the award-winning illustrator of more than twenty books for children while continuing to create images for magazines and other publications, as well as keeping an eager eye to ever-evolving landscape of illustration.

“A sought-after public speaker to schools and at conferences, Joe relishes every new opportunity to share his experience and advocate for his craft.”

Check out the video of the Interview on his site’s “biography” page.

{images belong to Joe Cepeda, text to Gary Soto}

Joe is the president of the Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles, SILA. [He] works and lives in southern California with his wife and son.


Published by L

I read, and I write. and until recently, I sold books.

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