Stef Soto, Taco Queen

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
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Warm, funny tale of family, tacos, and middle school.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Spanish phrases are plentiful, as it's the first language of Stef's parents, whose English is just "good enough" to get by; they're usually translated. Along the way, a number of practical skills, including customer service and creative food prep, play an important role in unfolding events, and are shown to be positive things. School, education, and good teaching are presented enthusiastically; one character goes to Korean school on weekends.

Positive Messages

Hard work, education, family, friendship, teamwork, and strong community are all important values here. So are clever problem-solving and working to make things right when you do something out of line. There's also a lot of Latino pride, as most of the characters are Latin American.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Stef is a good kid and a believable middle-schooler who works hard in school, helps her parents, and pretty much stays out of trouble. She gets annoyed with her parents' possibly overprotective ways, but she also appreciates being in a loving family. She and her friends are a good team, and she's quick to make it right  when she messes up things between them. Her parents are kind, loving, and supportive; so are her teachers.

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Jennifer Torres' Stef Soto, Taco Queen, offers young readers a lot of relatable situations, a raft of positive messages about family, friends, and community, plus a chance to pick up a bit of conversational Spanish as characters switch between languages. Thirteen-year-old protagonist-narrator Stef is a good kid who obeys her parents, helps out in the family business, and makes things right with her friends when she's in the wrong. But she'll also strike a chord with many readers as she deals with middle-school issues, tries to get her parents to be a bit less overprotective, and really wishes she didn't get picked up from school in a taco truck.

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What's the story?

Middle school has enough problems without your former best friend turning into a mean girl who calls you STEF SOTO, TACO QUEEN and acts like you reek of onions and cilantro, all because your family includes Tia Perla, your father's beloved taco truck. Along with your dad, it's always in the parking lot waiting to pick you up from school, which is definitely uncool. And your parents are so overprotective they won't even let you go to the upcoming Viviana Vega pop concert that's the talk of the school. This is the life of 13-year-old Estefania Soto, who just wishes Tia Perla would go away. But when their town starts to consider food-truck regulations that might put her Papi and Tia Perla out of business, Stef starts to reconsider.

Is it any good?

Jennifer Torres' tasty, funny, heartwarming tale of a Latina middle-schooler, her loving parents, the family food truck Tia Perla, and their sometimes-surprising adventures is a satisfying treat. Along the way there are lots of positive messages about responsibility, family, friendship, and community -- plus frequent opportunities to improve your Spanish vocabulary as characters switch languages and narrator Stef translates.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the family businesses in Stef Soto, Taco Queen. Do you know kids who work in their family's business? How do they like it?

  • A character's food allergies lead to some inspired cooking in this story. Do you know any kids who are allergic to certain foods? What do they have to avoid? How do you deal with it?

  • Have you ever written a letter to a pop star or other famous person? What did you write about? Did they respond?

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