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Page history last edited by RichiesPicks 9 years, 5 months ago

25 October 2010 SONIA SOTOMAYOR: A JUDGE GROWS IN THE BRONX/LA JUEZ QUE CRECIO EN EL BRONX by Jonah Winter and Edel Rodriguez, Atheneum, 2009, 40p., ISBN: 978-1-4424-0303-1


"And I thank the Lord there's people out there like you

I thank the Lord there's people out there like you"

-- Elton John, "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters"


"When Sonia's mother wasn't cooking or working, she was studying.  She wanted to become a nurse, so she could make better wages and help her children even more.  While Sonia slept, sometimes her mother stayed up until midnight, doing her homework.  There was nothing she would not do to help Sonia or her brother."


I am, in part, drawn to the journey of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, because of her being a fellow New Yorker who is only months older that myself.  It is so interesting for me to read the chronology of her career, as set forth in the Author's Note at the end, and think about where I was, in parallel moments, as Sonia was making her mark: becoming, in her mid-twenties, an assistant district attorney and later becoming, in 1992, the youngest judge and first Latin American ever appointed to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.  


And I am particularly fond of this picturebook biography, focused primarily upon Justice Sotomayor's childhood and young adulthood, because it is very much a story of growing up being cared for and inspired by the hard work of a great mom and, like Sonia, I had one of those, too.


Immigrant parents with minimal educations.  A poor urban neighborhood.  A father who dies when she is nine.  A diagnosis of diabetes.  This little girl faces challenges galore, but the love and attention of her mother help motivate Sonia to work so hard that she finds herself studying at Princeton University.


"But Princeton, well, Princeton was not the Bronx.  Where were the subways?  Where was the merengue music?  Where were the people who looked like her?   For the first time in her life, Sonia felt scared and shy and very out of place -- almost like she was on a different planet."


And, so, as the story progresses, we can just imagine the progression that took place inside this young woman who went from feeling like an outsider in the privileged world of Princeton to becoming a judge who worked hard and who truly knew compassion.  Thanks to working hard -- a thread that runs throughout the story and through her life -- Sonia Sotomayor eventually gets invited to the White House by its current history-changing occupant and is offered what is arguably the best government job in all of Creation: receiving a lifetime appointment to make history, interpreting the ever-evolving meaning of the United States Constitution as a justice on the US Supreme Court. 


And, once again, I think back to the all-white, all-male US Supreme Court of my childhood and I thank the Lord that things do sometimes change for the better.  And it's gotta be something, to be a woman my age, a woman who grew up with the same vantage point of history that I had, and then find oneself in the Twenty-first century as the first Latina on the United States Supreme Court.  


An incredibly powerful story packed in a bilingual picturebook, well told and joyfully illustrated, SONIA SOTOMAYOR: A JUDGE GROWS IN THE BRONX is exactly what we are talking about when we write of high interest nonfiction and of the value and impact of employing outstanding trade books in the classroom.     

Richie Partington, MLIS
Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.com
Moderator http://groups.yahoo.com/group/middle_school_lit/

FTC NOTICE: Richie receives free books from lots of publishers who hope he will Pick their books.  You can figure that any review was written after reading and dog-earring a free copy received.  Richie retains these review copies for his rereading pleasure and for use in his booktalks at schools and libraries.

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