Customer Reviews: Sonia Sotomayor: Supreme Court Justice
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
First, I have to say that I think Sonia Sotomayor, America's first Latina Supreme Court justice, has a great life story to share. I requested this picture book from Vine because I was so glad to see her inspirational story and life of accomplishments being shared with young children. I looked forward to reading it.

So I actually feel very sad to have to give it only two stars (it could even have been one star, but the illustrations, overall, are nice.) Why so low? Well, to begin with, the writing is sadly lacking. It is lacking a narrative "life story" feeling where you can feel what her life was like and how she was able to accomplish all that she did. It lacks the bright, interesting use of language that a picture book needs and it doesn't make you care about the main character or her life.

Yes, you read a little about her humble beginnings as the American-born daughter of Puerto Rican immigrants--her father, who died young but left her with the love of baseball that she is known for, and her hard-working mother who kept the family together--working two jobs, earning her RN at night, and raising one child who became Supreme Court Justice and another who became a doctor. It is a great American story, but ... unfortunately... it just isn't told very well here.

The way this book is written is very strange to me. It looks as if it would be a "read aloud" for young children, but it jumps all over and really isn't done in a way that keeps your interest. Sometimes it is difficult to know if you are reading about Sonia or someone else and the style is very choppy. The page on her mother, for example, begins: "Born in 1927, Lajas, Puerto Rico, Mami, age nine, watches her mother die." The type is set as if it's a poem, but the writing is flat, choppy (as the above sentence) and lacks character development, even for Sonia.

It also has an annoying habit of emphasizing that she is "Nuyorican" over and over, "born in Nuevo York". Is this important or just irrelevant and confusing? There is a glossary at the end, but I think the use of Spanish (or Spanglish) would be confusing for a child reading independently and distracting for a teacher reading aloud to have to stop and (try to) explain. Isn't it a lot more important and interesting to know that she's Puerto Rican-American? Do most people - most children - care about "New York" (only ever called "Nueva York" in this book that also only writes about "Mami" and "Papi")?

Basically, the writing is terrible--boring to read, choppy, full of holes and lacking any emotional impact whatsoever. Also, in my opinion, it isn't written with the language you'd like in a picture book--simple but engaging--and you get very little sense of who this remarkable woman is, either as a child or an adult. (If, like me, you find the oddly spaced writing uninteresting and hard to follow, there -is- a biography written in paragraphs at the end of the book. Unfortunately, this reads like a bare-bones encyclopedia entry).

Here's an example about her mother learning to be a nurse: "Mami, age thirty five, carries breakfast to a sick neighbor, takes his temperature and blood pressure, returns home to cook arroz con habichuelas, leaves the pot on the stove in case her kids come home hungry, hustles them out to Blessed Sacrament School, sends the monthly payment for Encyclopedia Britannica, heads out to Prospect Hospital, where she answers phones, announces on the intercom, 'Bring down the sheets'. The "ee" comes out as an 'i'." This is the second "paragraph" (formatted like verse) on the page about Mami. How is a kindergartener or first grader going to understand this (or find it interesting)?

I'm so sorry to give this book only 2 stars but I cannot picture who it is for--too dull for young children, too uninvolving for older children and not a fun read-aloud book either. Too bad.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon September 19, 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Sonia Sotomayor is a great role model and I have tremendous admiration for her so I got this book thinking it would give me a little insight into her life and how she overcame the challenges to become the Supreme Court Justice. I thought it was a book for adults so I was rather surprised to receive a thin hardcover with illustrated pages written like a typical children's book with short stories and verse.

It intermingles poems with short passages about Sonia Sotomayor's life from childhood to her current role. It is also illustrated like a children's book. However, the language is for the adult reader and will be too tough for a kid to comprehend, so it's not really a read-aloud book. It's also not very engaging in parts, with rather dry and abrupt phrasing, and offers very little insight into Sonia's mind. The events in her life have been captured in short snapshots leaving the reader to wonder about her true mental state during those times. The back of the book merely gives a timeline of events.

I really wanted to like this book due to it's subject but it has left me frustrated as I found out more about Sonia from a CNN story than this book. She is a person with great heart and courage and confidence in her heritage and I did not feel like this book captured her true spirit.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Juan Luis Sotomayor and Celina Báez de Sotomayor welcomed their first child, Sonia, into the world. They were Puerto Rican, but because their baby was born in "Nueva" York, she was a Nuyorican. Three years later, when Sonia was three, young Juan Luis joined them. Sonia was a busy girl who loved nothing better than to race around on her tricycle. The tassels on the handle bars whirled `round as the pedals were turned rapidly with her pink sandals. "Mami" and "Papi's" family in Bronxdale is now complete with Junior and a very, very busy, Sonia.

Sonia is hungry to win at games, much to the chagrin of her brother, but she is "as hungry as a barracuda" for food and dance. When they travel to Mayagüez "Sonia buys a cranberry `piragua,' its crushed ice pyramid topped with sweet syrupy tamarind." Soon there would be no sweet things for Sonia, only those shots. Diabetes. "Why can't she be like any other third grader?" The other children smirk at her in school. Why can't she understand those words? How come Sonia is so very different?

"Papi" is gone and "'Titi' Gloria tells Junior and Sonia that `Papito Dios' took `Papi' to `el cielo.'" Things will be so different without him, but she will love the Yankees for the both of them. `Mami' has to work harder, but Sonia does too and all of a sudden those words and stories begin to make sense. The world begins to open up to her. Sonia begins to dream and to work hard. The time comes for her to move out in the world. Maybe she can go to Princeton. "Do whatever you want, but do it well and with pride," `Mami' explains. Sonia is so very different, but can she make a difference?

This is the amazing biography of Sonia Sotomayor, a Nuyorican who had a dream. This mini-biography is told in free verse sections, each describing a particularly eventful moment in Sonia's life or that of her family. For example, we learn about how she studies with `Mami,' learns to write in English, her marriages, and eventual confirmation to the Supreme Court. The illustrations are vibrant, capturing Sonia's very being with every stroke of the brush. In the back of the book is a more detailed biographical sketch, a glossary of Spanish words and sayings, a chronology (1954 to 2009), source notes, and notes. The source notes have several book and website resources young readers may wish to explore.
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VINE VOICEon June 27, 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Yes, Sonia Sotomayor is a hero for today. I am currently reading her memoir and am very thankful to have a Hispanic woman for young ladies (and young men) to look up to. I was really looking forward to this book and I have to admit it was a bit disappointing. I could not tell what audience it was written to.

At first the book is written as if it's a picture book: one or two sentences and bright and colorful pictures of Sonia as she grows up. As she gets older, there are more sentences and less complicated pictures. Finally, at the end of the book, there are long paragraphs describing her divorce, mother's remarriage, etc.

It's as though you can read the book to your first grader up to a certain point, then wait until the child is old enough to sit for the sentences and finally, maybe in 5th or 7th grade, read some more and finally in high school, complete the book. It just wasn't cohesive.

There are facts in the back of the book, plus a glossary of Puerto Rican terms that are sprinkled throughout the book. I think that the glossary is helpful to those who aren't familiar with Spanish.

I enjoyed the book as far as the information but, as I stated earlier, the presentation needs addressing. Who is the book for? Why is it written the way it is?
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VINE VOICEon August 1, 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I adore Sonia Sotomayer and I love the idea of children's book that are about amazing people like this. Unfortunately, I was not impressed with the book itself. The poems don't really work for me. They are clunky and lack any kind of poetic cadence. I am a huge fan of free verse, but this does not do it well. It doesn't even read like poetry to me. It reads like paragraphs from an essay that were just broken up to look like poems.

I do like the illustrations, though. I also think it is worth having material like this for children, especially young girls who really need better role models than Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian.
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VINE VOICEon July 10, 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I was disappointed in this picture book about Justice Sonia Sotomayor due to the writing and the illustrations. I do not know if Carmen T. Bernier-Grand writes all of her books in free verse, but, if not, I do not understand why she chose that writing style for this book -- it is a biography that is supposed to introduce children to the life of our first Latina Supreme Court justice and I think it was a poor choice of styles. It is choppy and fragmented. The section about Justice Sotomayor's childhood onset Type 1 diabetes is not well told -- it makes the testing and the daily shots look frightening. There is no reason given to the child readers as to why Sonia has developed diabetes. As a Type 2 diabetic, I really object to this brief one page summary that is necessary but told in a hamfisted manner. There is a four page prose summary of the life of the justice at the back of the book, along with a timeline of her life, and a list of sources that would be helpful for teachers and parents. The illustrations of Thomas Gonzales did not inspire me at all. I am becoming accustomed to seeing this type of vague impressionist work illustrating biographies aimed at young children, but I would rather see actual photographs of the subjects if they are available. I don't think there is any excuse for not using photographs in books on 20th century people. As an introduction to the life of Justice Sotomayor for younger readers (ages 6-8) it is adequate although over-priced. I do not recommend it for older children.
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VINE VOICEon June 29, 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
There are plenty of good children's books on the market and there are a few outstanding books that belong on every child's bookshelf. "Sonia Sotomayor: Supreme Court Justice" by Carmen T. Bernier-Grand is one of the latter.

This outstanding booking is wonderfully illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez. Bernier-Grand, a Puerto Rico native and Gonzalez from Cuba make the perfect pair to tell the story in words and drawings of the little girl born in the U.S. of Puerto Rican heritage and raised to become Supreme Court Justice.

This inspiring story is augmented by a glossary of Spanish terms, a biographical summary, and a brief chronology.

Bernier-Grand does a skillful job in presenting bite-sized blank-verse looks at Sotomayor's life, pieces small enough to be understood and to retain the interest of young readers. Children will be inspired by the example of Sonia who was raised in the projects near Yankee Stadium and worked hard for her Princeton and Yale education, law degree, and appointment to the federal bench. In between she copes with the early death of her father, with diabetes, and with an unsuccessful marriage to her childhood sweetheart.

As a child Sonia aspires to be Nancy Drew and later wants to be Perry Mason. She ended up doing much better.
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VINE VOICEon August 14, 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I had hoped this would be a nice book to share with my daughter as she grows up, but I'm not sure how useful she is going to find it. The story isn't exactly linear, there were times I had difficulty figuring out what the author was talking about, and I found the use of Spanglish to be more than a bit confusing, especially for a book targeting young readers.

You know what would have been great? To do a linear story, to make the sentences clear and concise, and to make the book fully bilingual. I read my daughter many books that are printed with English on the left page and Spanish on the right, so that it helps her develop her language skills in both. I think that would have been far preferable to the drops of Spanish and Spanglish throughout.

I gave it three stars because I felt they really did make an effort and I was able to enjoy it somewhat, but I wasn't particularly impressed.
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VINE VOICEon August 1, 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This book manages to include a lot of information, with some excellent color drawings, in 48 pages. It also includes a good size list of sources. I have read biographies written for adults that did not have such a list.

The book looks at Sonia Sotomayor's life from her birth until her appointment to the United States Supreme Court. It includes critical information written in a way that my friends' 10 year old son found interesting.

It is written in a way that reminds children and adults that someone born from humble beginnings can work hard and become a Lawyer and United States Supreme Court justice. It was something that my friends and I talked about with their son. The book is written in free verse which was unexpected but it works okay.

I enjoyed the drawings and the information. It is a very nice looking book. I plan on sharing it with my niece and nephew when they get older.
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VINE VOICEon June 28, 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This illustrated biography about United States Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Sotomayor, describes her early life in New York City as the daughter of Puerto Rican immigrants. The book details her parents more. Her father died young from a heart attack. Her mother worked two jobs and went to school to become a nurse.

The book explains her childhood when she is diagnosed with diabetes and her life with it. It has not stopped her from achieving her dreams of becoming a lawyer, a judge, and a Supreme Court Justice. The book mentions her relationships first with her high school sweetheart which ended in divorce after 7 years of marriage and also the end of her engagement to another man. The book doesn't dwell on it. It also explains why she chose not to become a mother as well in life.

Still the book explains in detail how she became the first Puerto Rican American Supreme Court Justice in the United States. This book will inspire and enlighten children of all backgrounds to achieve their dreams despite their situation. Despite all the upsets in her life, she became a Supreme Court Justice without losing that touch and personality. She is still a huge New York Yankees fan and her mother's daughter as well.
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