This book came to me via a friend who picked it up as a gift for my 12-year-old niece at the Decatur Book Festival in September of 2019.
Sotomayor, who in 2009 became the first Latina Associate Justice, shared at the festival her new children’s picture book, “Just Ask! Be Different, Be Brave, Be You,” illustrated by award-winning artist Rafael López.
Knowledge of Sonia’s life wasn’t well known to me. I’m not a huge fan of political and legal individuals, other than RBG of course, but that’s only because I’ve recently watched the movie and documentary about her life. I knew of her of course, but nothing about her struggles growing up in poverty and how education and working hard got her to where she is today.
But this book is an edited version of her original book so that middle grades can read about her life. Although I’m far removed from the middle grades I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book.
To be honest, I think this book might still be a bit of a hard read for middle grades. Seems a few other reviews thought that as well. I’m not that well versed on the judicial system as I suspect middle grades aren’t either and even I had a bit of a hard time understanding some of the terms and descriptions of what she was doing in the legal system as she progressed through her career.
There is a translation dictionary in the back for many of the Spanish words she uses throughout the book but not all of them. That was a bit annoying but I just looked them up on my phone.
Another Goodreads reviewer, Jamie, said this about the book and I heartily agree:
My daughter, who is 9, got this book for Christmas. We started reading it a few months later, and the book started off very relatable to her and easy enough to follow. As we progressed from Sonia’s early to late high school years, the book became more out of reach to her, with long descriptions of college admissions, guidance counselors, and affirmative action. We powered through to her early college years and then agreed that it was getting too difficult for her to comprehend, and we would restart it in a few years.
This version of Sotomayor’s book is meant for younger readers, but I think that’s a misnomer. The concepts, vocabulary, and writing is more advanced than what I think most young readers can consume. I didn’t see much difference between the level of complexity of this book and the complexity of other books I’ve read that are meant for adults. I knew that this book was intended for a kid closer to 13 years old and expected to help my 9 year old through some challenging passages. Instead I found myself unable to get through a page without having to stop to explain something to her. I don’t think a 13 year old could get through this and understand it without some adult help. Despite all that-we were enjoying her story and wanted to learn more.
Time for Kids 5-6th grades has a good 8 Questions for Sonia article here.
In this adaptation for middle graders based on her bestselling adult memoir, My Beloved World, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Sonia Sotomayor’s extraordinary life inspires. Her achievement serves as a true testament to the fact that no matter the obstacles, dreams can come true.
Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic and third woman appointed to the Supreme Court of the United States, was a young girl when she dared to dream big. Her dream? To become a lawyer and a judge.
As Justice Sotomayor explains, “When I was a child my family was poor and we knew no lawyers or judges and none lived in our neighborhood. I knew nothing about the Supreme Court and how much its work in reinterpreting the Constitution and the laws of the United States affected peoples’ lives. You cannot dream of becoming something you don’t even know about. That has been the most important lesson of my life. You have to learn to dream big dreams.”
Sonia did not let the hardships of her background–which included growing up in the rough housing projects of New York City’s South Bronx, dealing with juvenile diabetes, coping with parents who argued and fought personal demons, and worrying about money–stand in her way. Always, she believed in herself. Her determination, along with guidance from generous mentors and the unwavering love of her extended Puerto Rican family, propelled her ever forward.0