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Sandwiched between the ocean and the mountains surrounding the Pueblo de Los Angeles, wealthy Spanish caballeros live side by side with Native Americans. One boy with both Spanish and Indian blood belongs to both worlds. He is Diego de la Vega, who will one day wear the mask of Zorro.
As a boy Diego is more concerned with riding horses and making mischief with his best friend, Bernardo, than about fighting injustice. But when men start disappearing from the pueblo of Los Angeles and cattle are missing from Diego's father's rancho, Diego and Bernardo encounter an injustice so wicked that they must take action.
Inspired by Isabel Allende's novel Zorro, which reveals how Diego de la Vega became the legendary masked hero, Young Zorro: The Iron Brand introduces readers to a land of vaqueros and kidnappers -- an exciting world in which a young hero is formed.
First introduced in 1919, the legend of Zorro, "the fox," swiftly grew into a phenomenon. A hero of Spanish California with a dual identity, Zorro has vanquished evildoers and conquered hearts in books, movies, and television series around the world. Most recently the Zorro tale has been brought to life by Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones in the 1998 major motion picture The Mask of Zorro and its 2005 sequel, The Legend of Zorro.
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|Age Range:||8 - 12 Years|
About the Author
Jan Adkins has written, illustrated, and designed thirty-six books. He has also art-directed magazines, written TV scripts, and taught design at the college level. He lives on a horse ranch in Novato, California.
Read an Excerpt
Young ZorroThe Iron Brand
By Diego Vega
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2005 Diego Vega
All right reserved.
Paco Pedernales was pleased with himself. He had the tired and happy feeling of finishing a good job. He was a fine carpenter, trained by the padres of the San Gabriel Mission, and he had just built a wall of bookshelves and cabinets in the lavish hacienda of Don Miguel Moncada. He had coins in his pocket and knew his wife had a good meal waiting for him.
This was a Thursday evening in late March, in the year 1810, near the Pueblo de los Angeles. Paco's burro was patiently carrying his boxes of tools. He spoke to it now and then: "Soon, Maria, soon. I'll take those heavy boxes from your back and you can eat hay while I eat tamales, yes? You're a good friend. We'll be home soon."
He reached a place where the road dipped into a streambed. The light was dim. As he looked hard to find the stepping-stones across the stream, a voice called, "Paco!"
He turned, smiling. This was a pleasant surprise: he would have the company of a friend on his walk to the pueblo.
A hard leather loop fell around his shoulders and tightened painfully, binding his arms to his sides. A gag was pushed into his mouth, and a rag tied around his eyes. In a few seconds his hands were bound with leather strips. A deep, hard voice said, "Welcome, brother carpenter. You're coming on a trip with us. Aren't you lucky?"
A sudden blow to the side of his head convinced Paco that he was not so lucky. The meal his wife had cooked would grow cold, and then she would wonder what became of her husband. It would be a mystery.
Almost two hundred years after Paco Pedernales disappeared, a small earthquake opened a secret room under an old hacienda in Los Angeles. On the walls of the room were whips, pistols, and a rack of wickedly thin swords. Hanging beside the swords were a black hat, a black cape, and a black mask. It was the secret den of el Zorro, the legendary hero of Old California. There was also an iron-bound chest filled with papers.
In those papers were stories written by el Zorro himself, Don Diego de la Vega, or by his best friend and silent brother, Bernardo. Each of the objects with the papers -- ornate candlesticks, lace shawls, maps, spurs -- seemed to be part of a story.
The historians who sorted the papers tracked down the last of the de la Vegas -- me. I learned that el Zorro was my ancestor.
In that treasure trove of stories I read all the wild and brave tales of el Zorro, that black-masked hero, a fighter for justice and defender of the weak. But the best stories were the tales of Diego and Bernardo when they were young -- how they grew up on the vast de la Vega rancho and in the Gabrieleño Indian villages, the tricks they played and the mischief they made. This was before Diego became the real el Zorro, when he and Bernardo were just cub foxes. They were only boys in the stories, but justice meant so much to them, even then.
The first story was linked to one of those objects in the chest: a strange branding iron. It explained why Paco Pedernales was kidnapped on his walk home, long ago.
Excerpted from Young Zorro by Diego Vega Copyright © 2005 by Diego Vega. Excerpted by permission.
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