“'There's cold chicken inside it,' replied the Rat briefly; 'coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrench

'O stop, stop,' cried the Mole in ecstacies: 'This is too much!'”
-- from
The Wind in the Willows

Monday, July 12, 2010


By Jonah Winter • illustrated by Edel Rodriguez
Available now  • Atheneum / Simon & Schuster  • Ages 4-8
You never know what can happen.
Uno nunca sabe lo que puede suceder.
Story:  Before Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor took her seat in our nation’s highest court, she was just a little girl in the South Bronx.  Justice Sotomayor didn’t have a lot growing up, but she had what she needed – her mother’s love, a will to learn, and her own determination.  With bravery she became the person she wanted to be.  With hard work she succeeded.  With little sunlight and only a modest plot from which to grow, Justice Sotomayor bloomed for the whole world to see.
This picture book is written in both English and Spanish – every part of it:  from the flap copy to the Author’s Note.  Author Jonah Winter is the New York Times bestselling author of many books for children, including Barack (about President Obama), Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude (about Gertrude Stein) and The Fabulous Feud of Gilbert and Sullivan, to name a few.  Edel Rodriguez was born in Havana and is the creator of Sergio Makes a Splash! and Sergio Saves the Game!, as well as the illustrator for Mama Does the Mambo and Float Like a Butterfly.
Story behind the story:  In his author's note, Jonah Winter explains: “In America, we like to believe that anyone – regardless of their background – can achieve great things.  It’s called the American Dream, and Sonia Sotomayor is a wonderful example of it, rising from humble beginnings to become the first Latin-American Supreme Court justice….Not only is she the first Latin American to have a seat in America’s highest court, she also came to the position with more legal experience as a federal judge than any current Supreme Court justice at the time of their nominations.  Pretty impressive!”  Did you also know, Winter adds, that “some things haven't changed since her childhood in the South Bronx.  She still takes shots for her diabetes every day, and she still goes to see her beloved New York Yankees.  She still likes to listen to meringue music, and she still loves her family more than anything in the world.”'

A Children's Book-of-the-Month Featured Selection
Americas Award Commended Title

"Sotomayor's story can inspire children of all ethnic, racial, and economic backgrounds to work hard and pursue educational and professional success." -- School Library Journal

"Although I grew up in very modest and challenging circumstances, I consider my life to be immeasurably rich." -- Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor "Aunque me crié en circunstancias muy humildes y desafiantes, considero que mi vida es inmensamente rica". -- Magistrada de la Corte Suprema Sonia Sotomayor

"[A]s impressive and meaningful as Judge Sotomayor's sterling credentials in the law is her own extraordinary journey." -- President Barack Obama

"Tan impresionante y significativa como las credenciales legales de la juez Sotomayor es su extraordinaria jornada". -- Presidente Barack Obama

"This is an important book because it teaches us that no matter what our race is, we can still make a difference.I would recommend this book to anyone. -- reviewed by Grace, De Anza Elementary, Baldwin Park -- via the Los Angeles Times

FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent; please check back on the "comments" link to read what your colleagues have to say. 


Cyndi Readsboro Community Library Vermont said...

4)I recommend without reservation this book unlike other books that write of perseverance and hardship this truly is text that children will be able to understand. I have not shared the book as of yet with a group or even a child however I believe that their is so many similiarities to todays standards that the children will be able to visualize what Sonia had for obstacles and challenges. This book leaves the reader feeling empowered that anything is possible.

Anonymous said...

I give this 5 stars all the way. The dual language and the story itself are wonderful. As an added bonus the artwork is beautiful. I can envision so many uses for this book but I really see it as a tool for helping children to visualize their own dreams. Remarkable!

loonyhiker said...

I would definitely give this book 5 out of 5. The story was fascinating and even though it was a children’s book, I was interested in the story too. I really like how there was a Spanish translation to go along with the English words so students who are either English or Spanish speaking can read it. It would be a great story to use when talking about topics such as differences, cultural differences, hard work, perseverance, history, motivation, education and real life. I especially like this because Sonia Sotomayor is a great role model for girls of all ages as well as those dealing with cultural diversity. The story is powerful and heartwarming for all students male or female. As an added plus, the illustrations are wonderful also. Since there really isn’t that much written for students about Judge Sotomayor, this book is a great introduction into her life. I highly recommend it to use in a classroom on the elementary level or even middle school level special education classes.

Laura _SPED Teacher said...

I give this book a 5. The language in both English and Spanish was a huge plus, especially for ELLs. The story itself was very motivating. A great read all around! The vast amounts of topics allow for multiple teaching/connecting points1 I'll be putting this book to good use!

Angela said...

The biography of Sonia Sotomayor is a 5 star book in my opinion. I love that it is written in picture book format, which would make it a great model for students who are researching and writing their own biographies. Many biographies are longer and include page after page of minute detail that young writers get lost in. How do you pick what's important? This book does a great job in the trait of organization, as it tells just the right amount in each stage of Sotomayor's life to nail home the heart of the message. Speaking of the message, it is crystal clear and authentic. Anyone who reads it has to come away inspired and believing in themselves. Another aspect of the ideas that I love are the sharp details and visual images that are created. For example, the image of her father's "empty chair and much sadness" says so much in only a few words. I also love the analogy of her families love compared to a blanket. The lead in this book hooks the reader for sure and will be one that I use as a model when teaching students how to begin a piece. I love the comparison of Sotomayor to a blossoming flower and the way the author used this image at the beginning and end of the book, another technique to point out to students. Here's my only criticism, and I know it's a touchy subject. When Sotomayor gets to Princeton and begins to feel inferior and different surrounded by wealthy classmates, I didn't care for this part: "Sonia was aware of being poor, of being Latina, of feeling inferior." I thought because of the text that preceded it, this inferred that she was poor because she was Latina and I feel this kind of language perpetuates a stereotype that is unnecessary and not helpful in promoting equality. If I had gone to Princeton, I would have felt the same inferiority and noticed the economic differences between my classmates and myself, but that would have nothing to do with my race or ethnicity. I again felt the same way about the part towards the end where it said, "...and days and days of tough questions from a panel of nineteen senators - a row of white faces, most of them male." Again, you could infer that the author is saying that they were tough on her because they were white and she is Latina, not because of the nature and importance of the job she was about to undertake. Like I said, I love this book and its message, the dual language, the meaningful end pages and unique cover that shows a passage of time, on and on. An amazing addition to any biography collection!

Kim Watson said...

I could not wait to add this book to my classroom library. My students will really enjoy this book. It will allow them to see that dreams can be achieved if you set your mind and work hard. This book will also be great for ESL students. I will be able to use it during social studies when the students learn about the 3 branches of government. I cannot wait to introduce the book and encourage the students to read it.

Rating 5/5

Anonymous said...

This is a lovely book. Definitely a 5 rating. It a great, true example of how one can achieve success despite obstacles. The picture book format is helpful to engage young children in learning about about the life of someone who is playing a role in our American history. I am eager to share this book with my students this upcoming school year.

M. Battista said...

I enjoyed this book until the last few pages. Most of the story was beautifully told with rich imagery and warm sentiment. Then it took a political slant that was unnecessary. It said that "angry people" called her racist "just because she was proud to be a Latina judge" and spoke about the white male faces who questioned her. I think those statements tarnished a lovely story of a woman who worked so hard and overcame so much during her rise to the top. I would have given this book a 4, but can only give it a 2 because the ending.

M. Battista
Denair Elementary School Library
Denair, CA

Anonymous said...

I give this book a 5 in my picnic basket. This is a great book to use with my english language learners. Sonia Sotomayor had a determination to work hard and live her dream. Many of my Mexican students have that same determination. Her story will touch the interest of these students.

Megan B. said...

I give this book 5 stars. I loved that it was in English and Spanish. I loved the lessons conveyed in simple enough words for children to learn.

linda said...

This book is definitely a "5". From the book cover to the last page, the book is captivating. Edel Rodriguez does an exceptional job with the illustrations. It is unusual for the illustrations to tell a story as well. They compliment the dialogue. It is indeed a book about empowerment for anyone. A great read to ELL students or any any students. It would be a wonderful book to be read in two voices, as part of a Spanish language class. I really think that the book is timeless and ageless.

Heather Hill said...

"Sonia Sotomayor" is a wonderful picture book biography. 2nd and 3rd gr. students will love it as a read aloud. I love that each page has Spanish and English and think that children will enjoy the illustrations. The ending of the book did not flow with the beginning. I don't know that kids will understand the political arguments of what happened during her confirmation, but I appreciate the fact that they wanted to tell the story and not gloss over it. I did find the comments about the confirmation hearings - 19 white faces, most of them male - as oddly placed by the author and not relevant in the end. I give the book a 4 out of 5.

Heather Hill, Reading Specialist
Enterprise Elementary
Woodbridge, VA

Barbara said...

This book certainly gives hope to all who aspire to become "more" and the love and support of Sonia's family is described warmly. This will be one to share with our ESL students in the fall.
I share the same concern as others about the portrayal of the confirmation hearings: this is a critical appointment...it's not always about race and gender.
Rating: 4/5

Beth said...

I liked the concept of a biography written as a picture book and certainly thought the message of hard work, even through adversity can help achieve your goals.
However, towards the end, I was unhappy with the comment of 19 white, mostly male faces, giving her tough questions. Although the gender and race makeup of the senators is true, the undertones, especially with the racist comment prior to this sentence, leads readers to think that the confirmation hearing was a racist free for all; a white man's attack on a latino female judge. I just don't think it is appropriate.
I love how the book began and ended with the concept of a blossoming flower.
I simply can't rate this book because I disagree with the tone that it took towards the end.

lemon the duck said...

An inspirational story! The picture book format made it all the more enjoyable and the dual language was a motivator for my children to read it on their own to try and match up the English/Spanish words since some were taking Spanish as an enrichment class.
Most of the book told the story in such a positive light, but the ending had a very dark slant to it---not that the info should have been excluded, maybe just presented in a different way, it shadowed the positive a bit.
I rate this book a 4 out of 5.
Laura Backman
Hathaway School