By David Steinberg
Sonia Sotomayor is a United States Supreme Court Justice. And she’s the nation’s first Latina justice.
But you may not have known this fact about her: She’s an author of books for adults and children.
Sotomayor’s newest book – just published Sept. 3 – is “Just ask! Be different, be brave, be you!” The Spanish-language edition is “¡Solo pregunta! – Sé diferente, sé valiante, sé tú.”
As the title declares, the book encourages children to free themselves of constraints. Instead of simply wondering to themselves why others are different, don’t be afraid to speak up. Ask questions to understand the differences of those around them.
In the book’s story, children with different and challenging conditions can accomplish things and in their own ways they all help make a community garden grow.
The conditions the children have include blindness, deafness, asthma and dyslexia, a learning disability.
A young girl named Sonia narrates the story. She tells about the conditions that she has ( diabetes) and her neighborhood friends have. Those conditions don’t keep the kids from doing things.
-Vijay is deaf but he communicates using sign language
-Bianca has dyslexia so she has to work extra hard and take her time in reading and writing words.
-Ahn speaks with a stutter so sometimes she has to repeat a word when she gets stuck.
-Madison is blind but has a guide dog to help her get around. Her friend Arturo is also blind but he uses a can to get around. The two of them can still smell, hear, and touch.
-Rafael has asthma. He uses an inhaler when he has trouble breathing.
The colors, shapes and fragrances of blossoms, berries and leaves reveal the variety of growth in the community garden. That variety is a metaphor for the children’s different conditions.
Just like the young girl Sonia,, the justice writes that she herself suffered from juvenile diabetes, and that was the impetus for writing the book. Because of that childhood condition she sometimes had to publicly inject herself with shots of medicine called insulin. She did it because she wanted to be healthy.
But she wondered why none of her friends and classmates asked her what she was doing. She remembers their silence – Was she doing something wrong? No, she wasn’t. So now we have the book “Just ask!” to give today’s youngsters permission to ask.
Yes you can! ¡Sí se puede!
The book is a terrific story that is helpful for kids to know each other’s differences. It’s aimed at children ages four to six but it’s really a book that teens and adults can learn from.
The text is richly and brilliantly enhanced by the bold, colorful art of award-winning illustrator Rafael López.
–Justice Sotomayor will discuss andautograph her new children’s book at a sold-out public event at Albuquerque’s KiMo Theatre on Sunday, Sept. 8.