Turning Pages: My Life Story by Sonia Sotomayor, illustrated by Lulu Delacre, 40 pp, RL 3

Turning Pages: My Life Story
written by Sonia Sotomayor and 
illustrated by Lulu Delacre
Review Copy from Philomel Books
What promises to be an interesting life story starts out great with these words from Justice Sotomayor, "My story is about books - of poems and comics, of law and mystery, of science and science fiction - written both in Spanish and English . . . What was so special about books? Do written words have a unique magic? At each step in my life, I would put together the answer like pieces of a puzzle." Justice Sotomayor shares the challenges of her life, from learning to read in two languages, to being diagnosed with diabetes at age seven to the loss of her father when she was nine, with books providing her comfort, strength and friendship at every turn. Comic books helped young Sonia conquer her paralyzing fear of needles, inspiring her to imagine she had her own secret superpowers and eventually giving her the courage to give herself shots. One of the greatest moments of her childhood came with the arrival of two huge boxes filled with a set of encyclopedias. Justice Sotomayor ends each two page spread with a wonderfully descriptive analogy for what books meant to her. Of the arrival of the encyclopedias, she writes, "I felt like a deep-sea diver exploring mysterious depth. Books were my snorkel and flippers, helping me get there." Reading Lord of the Flies in high school made Justice Sotomayor realize why, "we need laws and rules to feel safe, so that people have the freedom to grow and flourish . . . Books were lenses, bringing into focus truths about the world around me." Books are her life preserver in college, keeping her head above water, and also mirrors of her "very own universe." When she began practicing law, books were, "maps to guide us to justice." She ends with these words I hope all young readers will embrace, "Books are the keys that unlock the wisdom of yesterday and open the door to tomorrow."

There is no way I wouldn't love Turning Pages. Non-fiction is not my favorite genre and I usually have to force myself to consume it. The surge of marvelous non-fiction picture books in the last few years have made this much easier for me. Literacy and raising the reading levels of my students - as well as finding books that, like Justice Sotomayor says, are mirrors reflecting their experiences as children of color and, often, children of immigrants, are always on my mind. Turning Pages does double duty in these areas. For children who already love to read, this book will inspire them to explore new territories and think about where their passions might lead them. A win-win!


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