Turning Pages: My Life Story by Sonia Sotomayor

Women’s History Month – Mar. 1 – 31, 2019

Turning Pages: My Life Story

Sonia Sotomayor, Author

Lulu Delacre, Illustrator

Philomel Books, Nonfiction, Sep. 4, 2018

Pages: 40

Suitable for Ages:  4-12

Themes: Sonia Sotomayor, Hispanic-American judges, Supreme Court, Autobiography, Pursuing Dreams

Opening: My story is a story about books — of poems and comics, of law and mystery of science and science fiction — written both in Spanish and in English.

Synopsis:

Sonia Sotomayor has inspired young people around the world to reach for their dreams. But what inspired her? For young Sonia, the answer was books! They were her mirrors, her maps, her friends, and her teachers.

Her first memory of how words mesmerized her came from her Abuelita (grandmother), who recited poems written long ago about the tropical island home her family left behind. When Sonia was diagnosed with diabetes at seven and had to give herself shots, she found comic books with super heroes her best medicine. Books became her “loyal friends.” They helped her to connect with her family in New York and in Puerto Rico,

When her father died, Sonia was nine. She found refuge in a neighborhood library. A neighbor surprised her with a complete set of encyclopedias that added to the home library. She also became a big Nancy Drew fan and decided that she could figure out mysteries too. Books took her all over the world and to the moon.  They taught her right from wrong. She learned about inequality. And she began to dream of a future for herself where anything was possible.

What I like about this book:

Turning Pages is an inspiring book that will leave readers hopeful and excited about their own dreams.  The written word is important to Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, which is reflected in her lyrical and rhythmic text.  She writes with love, enthusiasm and candor. I am thrilled to see such a deeply personal book for young people. But I believe fifth – seventh grade students would benefit. She is an important role model for youth.

This is the first time Sotomayor shares her own personal story with young readers. It is a down-to-earth story about the magical power of reading and how it shapes periods of her life. In her words: “Books were the magic potions that could fuel me with the bravery of superheroes / little boats that helped me to escape sadness at home / my snorkel and flippers, helping me get there / my time machine, inspiring me to imagine what I would be when I grew up / my launchpad, blasting me straight into my dreams / lenses, bringing into focus truths about the world around me / mirrors of my very own universe.” 

Sotomayor was born in the Bronx with humble beginnings. Her family was from Puerto Rico and she spoke Spanish at home. Children of immigrants will relate to her struggle to learn English, balance two languages and learn to fit in with others. It was her love of books that helped her make sense of her life and her world.

Lulu Delacre’s beautiful and vibrant illustrations perfectly echoes the rich textures of Sotomayor’s life.

Resources: This book is a treasure and would be a great read-aloud for classroom discussions about  women in power, the Supreme Court or government service. There is a Timeline of Justice Sotomayor’s life and a lot of photographs on the front and back endpapers.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors

*Library Copy.

Regine’s Book

Regine's Book9781936976201_p0_v1_s260x420.jpbRegine’s Book: A Teen Girl’s Last Words

Regine Stokke, Author

Zest Books, Nonfiction, Oct. 23, 2012

Suitable for Ages: 14 and up

Themes: Leukemia, Living with a Serious Illness, Courage, Teen Memoir, Blogging, Photography

Regine Stokke was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) in August 2008, a few days after her 17th birthday.  The diagnosis was a big shock for this Norwegian teen who felt like her “life had been shattered.”  Shortly after her diagnosis, she decided to blog about what it was like to live with a serious illness and how it affected her life.  She wrote about the countless painful biopsies and blood tests, chemotherapy and hospitalizations.   There were days she was very ill and ready to give up and times of hope when donors were found.  Her life was an emotional roller coaster and took its toll.  She shared her deepest feelings and fears of dying.  Regine was surrounded by her loving family, friends and community who were of tremendous support and brought some normalcy to her life.

She received her bone marrow transplant in January 2009.  Her life began to improve.  There  were times when Regine felt well enough to pursue her love of photography and painting and exhibit her work.  She attended concerts and movies, went shopping and went to restaurants with friends.  She celebrated her 18th birthday on Jun. 6, 2009 with  two parties.  She visited children with cancer in the hospital to lend her support.  In between, there was good news and bad news.  Regine never lost sight of the fact that what was most important to her was living in the moment and her relationship with family and friends.  She loved life and had no intention of giving into her illness.

In October 2009, she received some bad news that her medications weren’t working and the aggressive cancer cells were back.  She wrote, “I’ve been crying nonstop today…This wasn’t supposed to happen.  The last time I met with the doctors we discussed the future, and talked about when I could start taking classes again — and now all of a sudden, it looks like I’m going to die.  Things changed so fast, and I don’t understand anything.  This is the worst thing I’ve ever experienced.  Going through something like this is just absolutely brutal.  No one deserves this… I think about my family having to go through all of this.  It’s so awful to think about.  It’s not just my life that’s being ruined.”

Meanwhile, what started out as a blog with a few followers, rapidly grew to thousands of followers daily.  Because of her articulate and soulful accounts, she touched the lives of many people in her country and worldwide.  Readers sent Regine words of love and encouragement.  Regine’s own written words became this beautiful book about her remarkable journey and a life lived.  The book is interlaced with family photos, her photography and  heartfelt comments from friends and people who followed her blog.  Her  last blog entry was December 1, which resulted in 6,700 reader comments.  Regine made a peaceful transition on Dec. 3, 2009 at home surrounded by family members.  After her death, her parents, Lasse and Julianne Stokke found a beautiful poem (undated) on her computer:

My path has only one direction

There are no signs

And there is no map

It’s impossible to go to the left or the right

It’s impossible to turn

I can only go straight ahead

But the road is crooked

It’s neither light nor dark in front of me

There’s fog

And no one knows what

Will be found on the other side

Why I like this book:  This book is as real as it gets!  Reading her words are almost sacred.  It is an honest, gut-wrenching, raw, powerful and inspirational story told in Regine’s own words.  Although Regine only wanted to be ordinary, she was extraordinary.  Throughout all that she endured, she shared her day-to-day ups and downs of living with leukemia with others through her blog.  She  continued her dreams of being a photographer and exhibited in her work at both 2009 and the 2010 Nordic Light photographic festivals in Kristiansund, Norway.  And, she became a strong advocate for cancer patients.  She urged people to register as blood and bone marrow donors.  In those short 15 months, Regine accomplished a lifetime of work.  Regine’s book sold over 30,000 hardback copies in 2010 and over 17,000 paperback copies in 2011, before it was translated from Norwegian into English.  The book is beautifully presented as a piece of art.  The book was printed on a heavier paper to display all of Regine’s photographic work, which runs throughout the book.  It is a book filled with so much love and grace.

I won this book  from the publisher, Zest Books, on Amanda’s Born Bookish blog.  It was so compelling that I wanted to share Regine’s story.

The Art of Miss Chew

The Art of Miss Chew

Patricia Polacco, Author and Illustrator

G.P. Putnam’s Sons,  April 2012, Fiction

Suitable for: Ages 5 and up

Theme: Artistic Expression, Autobiographical, Learning Disabilities, Self-esteem

Opening/Synopsis:  “I discovered how much I loved art the summer I spent with my grandmother and father in Michigan.  Grandma was an artist; she drew and painted so beautifully!  Grandma even told me that I was a natural artist, so I couldn’t wait to take Art at school next fall when I got home to California.  I only had one problem left –tests.  I just couldn’t seem to pass them.”  Trisha loves school, but she has a lot of trouble reading.   Her new teacher, Mr. Donovan, recognizes that she is smart, but needs more time taking test.  He gives her that time and she begins to pass them.  He also discovers her artistic talent when he sees one of her drawings.  Since there isn’t an art program in her school, Mr. Donovan arranges for Trisha to study art with Miss Chew, head of the high school art department, twice a week.  Miss Chew inspires Trisha “to see” an object before she draws.  Trisha carries her sketch book with her everywhere.  One day Mr. Donovan’s father dies and he has to leave for Ireland.  The stern substitute teacher sees no value in art and attempts to derail Trisha’s art classes.  But, Trisha and Miss Chew have a plan to outsmart the new teacher.

What I like about this book:   This is a heartwarming  autobiography of author/illustrator Patricia Polacco and the people who nurtured her artistic abilities, including two real teachers she names in the book.  This book is a lovely tribute to the educators who spotted her talent and encouraged her in that direction.  Patricia Polacco is an outstanding storyteller.  Her story is an important read for young aspiring artists, and for kids who have trouble reading.   Her colorful and bold illustrations evoke a lot of emotion and fun.  She has created over 50 picture books.  In a note to her readers, Polacco says “The tragedy is that today, too often monies are no longer available in many public schools to support art, music, drama, or descriptive arts programs.  How could this be?  Art teaches us to speak a language that originates in the heart, the soul and earliest memories.  How could any course be more important?”  Click here to visit Patricia Polacco’s website.

Activities:  Encourage your children to do art projects at a young age.  Introduce them to a variety of art supplies, crayons, colored pencils, chalk, paints, drawing pads and molding clay.    Many recreation centers, YMCA’s and art galleries have art and craft programs throughout the summer and year.  Visit art galleries, topiary gardens and concerts.  Create a space in your home to showcase your child’s artwork and let your child know how much joy his/her drawing brings you.

Additional Resources:  Colleague Beth Stilborn featured the “Arts and Books on Vacation” series on her blog last summer.  She focused on a variety of art programs for youth in New York City, Los Angeles, Canada and London.

To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.  Or click on the Perfect Picture Book Fridays  badge in the right sidebar.  Perfect Picture Books will be going on vacation after today’s posts,  and all the contributors will resume again September 7.    I will continue to publish book reviews and do some interviews throughout the summer, perhaps with some breaks.