A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
A glimpse of campaigns and elections. One illustration shows the boys' mom as a kid outside a San Antonio diner that has a sign that reads "White's Only/ No Spanish or Mexican." The value of education is a big theme, and how books and reading were important in their family. Some Spanish words, a glossary of them at the back, along with an Author's Note that traces Julián and Joaquin's life and professional paths. Some vocabulary about ideas ("equality"), elections and campaigns, and government, such as explaining the scope of Julián's cabinet position in a kid-friendly way: "As secretary of housing and urban development, Julián worked to help people whose communities were destroyed by floods and hurricanes and focused on making sure people of all backgrounds were treated fairly while looking for a home."
Work hard and follow your dreams. You don't have to have come from a wealthy background to run for president of the United States. Never give up. Recognize the sacrifices others made so you could achieve your dreams. Fight for positive change. "Work to make people's lives better," the Castro boys' mom told them.
Positive Role Models
The Castro boys were inspired by their politically active mom and their hardworking immigrant grandmother. Both Julián and Joaquin are models of working hard in school and for their community and country, following their dreams, making their family proud, and never giving up. Julián proves you don't have to have come from a wealthy background to run for president of the United States, or be invited by the president to serve in his cabinet. The brothers are realistically competitive but loving and supportive of each other, as kids and as grown-ups.
Shows a Mexican American family struggling and sacrificing to give her kids and grandkids a better life. Both Julián and Joaquin achieved great things and broke barriers through hard work and a commitment to social justice. Show the challenges their grandmother faced as an immigrant to the United States, having to dropout of school in the third grade to work cleaning houses. A scene shows their mom growing up during segregation, seeing a "White's Only/ No Mexican or Spanish" sign on a diner, with a mention that she wasn't allowed to play at Whites-only playgrounds or swim at Whites-only pools.
Did we miss something on diversity? Suggest an update.
Violence & Scariness
Shows the Castro boys' grandmother sick in the hospital and in the following scene at her grave in the cemetery.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Small Room, Big Dreams: The Journey of Julián and Joaquin Castro is the inspiring picture book biography of identical twin brothers from San Antonio, Texas, who grew up to have careers in politics and public service. Julián became mayor of San Antonio Texas, a member or President Barack Obama's cabinet, and ran for president in 2020. Joaquin currently represents Texas' 20th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. The boys shared a room with their grandmother, who came to the United States from Mexico at age 7. There's a picture of the boys visiting her when she's sick in the hospital when they're in college, followed by a picture of them at her grave in the cemetery. The twins were high achievers in school and sports, but are very relatable as competitive, loving, and mutually supportive brothers. The family story is as compelling as the success story of two high-profile politicians. A Spanish edition is also available: Pequeña habitación, grandes sueños: El viaje de Julián y Joaquín Castro.
Is It Any Good?
This engaging, inspiring biography has powerful messages about working hard, following your dreams, working for social justice, and honoring the sacrifices of those who helped you succeed. Small Room, Big Dreams: The Journey of Julián and Joaquin Castro shows the roots of the boys' commitment to education and social justice, inspired by their immigrant grandmother who cleaned other people's houses and took care of wealthier people's kids, and by their mother who saw injustice firsthand: She grew up under segregation, not allowed to play on certain playgrounds, swim in certain pools, or dine at restaurants reserved for "Whites only." When she campaigned for Mexican American political candidates, her boys were at her side.
Mirelle Ortega's colorful illustrations emphasize the warm family bonds and convey that these were regular kids who achieved great things and broke barriers. The family story alone is gripping and fun to follow. The political context adds an extra layer, but even kids who are too young to understand the ins and outs of politics will enjoy the story of two brothers who go far, inspired by their mom and grandma.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.