Being the librarian at a school with a population that is 90% Latinx and 75% English language learners, I am always on the lookout for high interest, low level books with a diverse cast of characters. While it is getting easier to find high interest books in a second and third grade reading level range, it is still a challenge to find books with main characters that are not white. Happily, Deborah Zemke's new series Bea Garcia delivers both!
Bea Garcia: My Life In Pictures begins, "The book you are holding in your hands is my life. I draw pictures of everything in it." This book is Bea's book, her doodle-diary, and there are fantastic line drawings on every page. My Life in Pictures begins with Bea telling readers a bit about herself, from her exuberant creativity, which sometimes results in drawings of dancing elephants on the walls and mustaches on the television that match up perfectly with Wendy the Weather Woman, to everything about her best friend Yvonne. Zemke's attention to details is great, from the birthday cake with red-hot polkadots to the Fabulous Palace that the friends made from a washing machine box to the crabapple tree that is perfect for climbing.
Bea's big challenge in My Life in Pictures is getting over the move of her best friend (all the way to Australia) and the boy who moves in. Bert looks like a monster to Bea and her little brother Pablo, known as the Big Pest. Bert, who ends up in Bea's class and sitting right behind her, burps and calls Bea, "Bzzy Bea," and "Bumbo Jumbo Dumbo Bea," while they are waiting for the school bus. Bea copes by drawing pictures of Bert in places far, far away from her, like the top of Mount Everest and freezing in Antarctica, until it seems to get her in trouble with her new teacher, Mrs. Grogan. After a few pages of anxiety and hiding under her desk, Bea gets a nice surprise and even gains a little acceptance for Bert.
While the only thing that seems diverse about Bea Garcia is her family name and the one-time use of the word "gracias," Bea Garcia: My Life in Pictures is a superb addition to the shelves of my library and I can't wait to read the second book in the series that just came out: