Monday, October 15, 2018

Turning Pages: My Life Story

Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor has shared the story of her life in an autobiography for adults, a story in Spanish for young adults and now as a picture book in both Spanish and English. Both Justice Sotomayor and Lulu Delacre, the illustrator of Turning Pages: My Life Story/Pasando Páginas share family traditions and memories from Puerto Rico. Young readers can look carefully at the illustrations to learn about life in Puerto Rico, in New York or at Princeton University and even to see newspapers the Justice’s family might have been reading when she was growing up. 

Justice Sotomayor remembers trips to sunny Puerto Rico when she could eat fresh mangoes and spicy chicken. From Puerto Rico to New York to Washington, D.C., books were always the Justice’s friends.  She called them her harbor, helping her escape the sadness of her father’s death; her snorkel and flippers, helping her explore life; a time machine inspiring her imagination; her launchpad, blasting her into her dreams. Now, in her life as a lawyer and judge, books are “maps to guide us to justice.”

The life of Justice Sonia Sotomayor is itself a launch pad for writing and discussions among students of any age.

·       What kind of books do you like to read and why? Did you have a favorite book when you were very little?

·       Justice Sotomayor remembers when her Abuelita, her grandmother, would “close her eyes and recite poems written long ago about the tropical land our family had left behind.” Does anyone in your family tell stories or sing songs when everyone gets together? What stories or songs do you remember?

·       Sonia Sotomayor was diagnosed with diabetes when she was just seven years old. She imagined she was brave and powerful like the superheroes in comic books so she could give herself daily injections.  What superpower would you like to have? What would you do with that power?

·       On the steps of the cover of the book is an opinion written by the Justice. Can you find her name and the title of the opinion?

·       Justice Sotomayor remembers receiving a set of encyclopedias at her home and learning about myosis, mitosis and molecule (all pictured in the bubbles) from diving into the pages of one volumeIs there a set of encyclopedias in your school or neighborhood library? If so, pick any volume, open to any page and read about something you find on that page.  What did you learn?

·       “Justice means treating people fairly under the law,” writes the Justice. Why is it important to have laws or rules for a country or a school or a classroom? Everyone in the class could write one reason on a 3x5 card; then the cards can be posted in the classroom or hallway for everyone to see. 

·       There are lots of family photographs of Sonia Sotomayor on the book’s endpapers – as a child, at special family events, with her colleagues on the Supreme Court. Take photos of each student with a favorite book. Students can write a few sentences or draw a picture to explain why that book is special.  The photos can be posted so students learn about new books they might also enjoy reading.

Justice Sotomayor talks about the importance of books from her childhood to her life on the Supreme court: “Books are keys that unlock of wisdom of yesterday and open the door to tomorrow.”

Note: An exhibit of Lulu Delacre’s illustrations for Sonia Sotomayor’s life story is on display at the ZimmerliArt Museum, Rutgers University, New Jersey. 

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