Sofia Valdez, Future Prez by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts
Sofia Valdez, Future Prez
Review Copy from Abrams Kids
The fourth book in this fantastic picture book series takes a small sidestep away from the STEM storylines that structured the first three books while continuing to hold up themes centered on importance of creativity and connection. Sofia Valdez, Future Prez is all about community, perseverance, leadership and finding your voice. Second grader Sofia and her Abuelo are always thinking of others, helping neighbors by bringing them groceries, "Raking the leaves, taking pets for a walk, or just dropping by for a treat and a talk." Connecting with neighbors, they create community in a neighborhood where there is no place to gather. When a squirrel, a dog and a mountain of trash result in an injury for Abuelo, Sofia becomes a community activist.
Determined to turn the mountain of trash into a neighborhood park, Sofia gathers her neighbors and gathers input and ideas before heading off to city hall. Nervous, she is sent from department to department until she is finally told, "You can't build a new park. You're only a kid!" But Sofia doesn't let this deter her. Convincing one person at City Hall that it can be done leads to Sofia speaking in front to everyone at City Hall, bravely sharing her ideas. The mayor tells Sofia he'll start a commission if Sofia can get the community to sign a petition. All of Miss Lila Greer's class join in the parade to get people to sign their petition.
What began with one person, one little person, became Citizens' Park, a place that got built with the "hard work OF, BY and FOR everyone." And, this person who "got things done, helping her family before she turned one," this person who thinks of others, gives her time to others, and acts for others, CAN grow up to be president!
Beaty's author's note reads,
Sofia Valdez was inspired by not one person, but many. Some small. Some tall. Some old. People from every part of the world. Girls. Boys. Women. Men. People who saw a problem and worked to fix it. Even when it was hard. Even when it was scary. Some are famous; most are not. They took one small step and then took another and another, and they inspired other people. Through their journeys, they changed the world.
The school I am the librarian at is part of the EL Education network and major pilar of our school design and curriculum is community - creating a community at school between students, staff and families and also connecting with the community that surrounds us. Five years ago, I think I would have read a book like Sofia Valdez, Future Prez and thought, "That's a nice story. Very inspirational. But I think it takes a special kid to speak up and make changes like Sofia." Today, having participated in a school where curriculum gets our kids out of the classroom and into our neighborhood making a difference, from educating the community about our local watershed and and to help preserve it to planting a butterfly garden on our campus that was designated an official Monarch Way Station by Monarch Watch. I have witnessed kids, most of whom qualify for free lunch, are children of immigrants and reading below grade level, making a change for the better in their immediate world. I feel like Sofia Valdez, Future Prez was created for them, and I thank Andrea Beaty and David Roberts for this from the bottom of my heart.