Just Ask! Be Different, Be Brave, Be You by Sonia Sotomayor, illustrated by Rafael López
Just Ask! Be Different, Be Brave, Be You
by Sonia Sotomayor,
illustrated by Rafael López
Purchased with grant funding for my school library
This review is posting on Thanksgiving Day, 2019 because I am deeply grateful for this book that introduces kids to diversely abled children in an affirmative, joyful, accessible way. Using a garden as metaphor, narrator Sonia (the illustration shows a Latina child in pearl earrings) tells readers that she and her friends are as different as the variety of plants that make up a garden. And kids are all different, too. Some are loud and chatty, some shy and quiet. Some of the differences are "easy to spot. Others take longer to notice. Each of us grows in our own way, so if you are curious about other kids, JUST ASK."
Beginning with her own experience, the narrator Sonia shares the experience of having to give herself insulin shots and prick her finger because she has diabetes. If you read her picture book autobiography, Turning Pages, you will know that this was a challenge for her that drew stares from children and adults alike, many of whom made assumptions about her without knowing her. After a page where she describes what it's like having diabetes (never referring to it as an illness) she ends with a question, "Do you ever need to take medicine to be healthy?" A page turn reveals Rafael, who has to use his inhaler when his asthma flares up. Following the pattern started by Sonia, he asks readers, "Do you have a tool to help your body?"
A child in a wheelchair, blind children who use both a seeing eye dog and a cane to get around, and a deaf child are followed by a child with dyslexia, two children with autism, one who talks and one who is silent, a child who stutters, a child with Tourette's syndrome, a child with ADHD, a child with nut allergies, and a child with Down syndrome all share their differences. That said, Sonia lets readers know that, while there are some kids who might not feel ready to explain their differences, asking questions is o.k. In her closing words, she encourages kids to ask a parent or a teacher to help you understand. And, with her final words, as with her first, she reaffirms the beauty of diversity and the strength that our unique powers give us when it comes to making the world a richer and more interesting place.