Turning Pages: My Life Story

Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
Turning Pages: My Life Story Book Poster Image
Inspiring life story of first Latina Supreme Court Justice.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Bio and timeline of Supreme Court Justice. Spanish is language of Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is part of the U.S. Some Spanish words: "español," " Abuelita," "10 horas para hacer 24 panuelos por 24 centavos." Food in Puerto Rico: mangoes, rice and beans, sofrito. Information on diabetes, giving self shots. Importance of libraries. Books: Justice League of America comic books, encyclopedias, Nancy Drew mysteries, science fiction, Lord of the Flies, the Bible, law books. The Constitution of the United States. Two meanings of word "justice." What a lawyer does. The Constitution. Periodicals pictured, Spanish and English: El Diario, New York Times, Life magazine. The moon landing. Princeton University, Yale Law School.

Positive Messages

Books can teach about the world and open up possibilities. Books and reading provide comfort and guidance when facing challenges. It's good to celebrate your family's heritage. "We shouldn't be so quick to judge people who do the wrong things." The Bible "taught me lessons about how to treat my neighbors." Jesus said, "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone." Education opened doors for her personally and also enabled her to help others.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Sotomayor grew up in a Spanish-speaking immigrant family, struggled to learn English, but books, reading helped. Her loving family celebrated their Puerto Rican heritage and culture, and at family gatherings, her abuelita recited poems about their tropical home. Sotomayor overcame many serious challenges: Type 1 diabetes, the death of her father when she was a child. She loved to read, found comfort and strength in books. She developed a strong sense of justice and used her legal skills to fight for fairness. Her mother worked hard to become a nurse, and sacrificed so her kids could have a better life.

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Turning Pages: My Life Story is a picture book autobiography by Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina Supreme Court Justice, illustrated by Latina artist Lulu Delacre. Sotomayor's story is chock-full of inspiration. Her family was made up of Spanish-speaking immigrants from Puerto Rico, she was diagnosed at age 7 with diabetes, and she lost her father when she was 9. Throughout the book, she shows how books and reading opened up her world and supported her through her challenges. A timeline charts her major life events. The book is also available in a Spanish edition.

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What's the story?

In TURNING PAGES: MY LIFE STORY, Sotomayor tells the story of growing up in a Spanish-speaking family in the Bronx, where she struggled to learn English. As a child, she was diagnosed with diabetes, and lost her father. Throughout, she enjoyed reading, and in Catholic high school, Bible stories helped her "sort out right from wrong." She attended Princeton University and then studied law, where "Law books were maps to guide us to justice." Now a Justice on the Supreme Court, she works with "the most important words in American law -- the founding document of our government, the Constitution of the United States."

Is it any good?

Sonia Sotomayor has done a supreme job crafting her autobiography for kids, writing in a friendly, accessible style, and threading her life story with concrete examples of how books buoyed her. Turning Pages: My Life Story uses books as an organizing principle, spotlighting books at each stage. For instance, comics about Supergirl leant her courage when she was diagnosed with diabetes. The library comforted her when her dad died. Nancy Drew mysteries and Lord of the Flies inspired her to think about the work she might want to do. She also weaves in the Bible and law books, and uses colorful metaphors to liken books to loyal friends, a harbor, a launchpad, a time machine, and even her snorkel and flippers.

The theme of social justice is strong. Bible stories she read in Catholic school about empathy and forgiveness remained with her. Books she read in college included ones about Puerto Rico and "men and women there who worked hard, but were paid very little," just like "my grandfather worked in a cigar factory and got sick from the dust, and my aunt spent long days stitching handkerchiefs." At law school, "law books reflected real-life stories of people who got into trouble but still needed to be treated fairly in court." Sotomayor's life is a true inspiration, a model for kids from diverse backgrounds and all kids.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the importance of books in Turning Pages: My Life Story. Do you have books that have special meaning to you? What have you learned from specific books? Can you think of ways they've helped you?

  • What are some of the challenges Sonia Sotomayor faced when she was young? Do you have challenges? How do you deal with them?

  • What do you think Sotomayor means when she compares books to a flame, electrical currents, a lens, a launchpad, magic potions, and other things? What would you compare books to in your life?

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