Tradition and Change on a California Rancho in 1850

Rosalba of Santa Juanita is the second in a series of stories for middle-grade-level readers that give a face and personality to some of the people who were part of California’s earliest years, in this case a young girl and her family living on a rancho in southern California. Rosalba’s great-grandfather built the rancho when the Spanish ruled Alta California. Now, in 1850, the land has become part of the United States after nearly thirty years of Mexican rule. There is a question about whether the original land grant is still valid, and Rosalba’s father must face this challenge of ownership.

But despite this uncertainty, daily life on the rancho continues as it always has with Rosalba and her brother and younger sister going about the chores and celebrations dictated by long traditions—beginning the day with a mañanita (morning song), washing clothes in the stream using yucca root for soap, helping to shear the sheep, and sharing tamales and tortillas with the vaqueros. Rosalba loves animals and is thrilled as she witnesses the birth of her horse’s foal and later begins training the filly.

Most important, this historically accurate book presents a close family intent on continuing the rich traditions of their Spanish forebears and caring for the land they respect and love. Rosalba of Santa Juanita shows young readers what life on a California rancho was like over 150 years ago. There is a glossary of Spanish words and a brief chapter about the early exploration and history of California’s transfer from Spain to Mexico to the United States following the story.

Clara Stites taught school for more than twelve years and edited several adult non-fiction books, including In the Shadow of the Giant: Thomas Wolfe (Ohio University Press, 1988). Her stories have appeared in numerous periodicals, including The MacGuffin, The Larcon Review, and Potpourri. She is the author of Katya of Fort Ross (Fithian Press, 2000) and looks forward to the publication of Lixia of Gold Mountain (the third book in this series, set in the Gold Country and featuring a Chinese family) by Fithian Press in 2003. Her book about a fleet of whaling ships, Naming the Stones, will be published by Spinner Publications and the Massachusetts Cultural Council this spring. She lives witrh her family in Massachusetts.


Rosalba of Santa Juanita
A California Story
For Middle Grade Level Readers
by Clara Stites

ISBN 1-56474-394-2
80 pages, paperback, $8.95
Publication Date: June 2002

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