Saturday, September 08, 2018

Sarai and the Meaning of Awesome

Gonz├ílez,Sarai and Brown, Monica. Sarai and the Meaning of Awesome September 11th 2018 by Scholastic Inc.
Copy provided by publisher

Sarai loves living near her grandparents Mama Rosi and Tata, and her cousins, the J's (Juju, Javier and Jade). She also considers herself AWESOME and is determined to be a successful business woman and cupcake baker when she grows up. When Sarai finds out that the house her grandparents have been renting is going to be sold, she and her cousins try to make enough money to buy it, so that the family doesn't have to be far away from Sarai's family. They bake cupcakes, send in a video to the Garden State Dance Off in hopes of winning $1,000, and have a lemonade stand. They even call the realtor and try to talk to her, although this gets them into a bit of trouble with their parents. In the end, the cousins aren't able to make enough money to buy the house, but the grandparents and the J's parents go together to purchase a great house even closer to Sarai's.
Strengths: This is a fun, upbeat look at close knit family life with Peruvian and Costa Rican cultural ties. It's great to see the cousins playing and scheming together, and the aunts, uncles and grandparents going to church, out to dinner, etc. Sarai Gonzalez is a child actor and social activist, and some students might be drawn to her celebrity.
Weaknesses: I prefer Monica Brown's Lola Levine series, which I have for my struggling readers, especially since this is only available in paperback.
What I really think: I will probably pass on purchase, since I've never heard my students talk about this actor, and the book is aimed at a more elementary school audience.

37825448Gonz├ílez,Sarai and Brown, Monica. Sarai in the Spotlight
September 11th 2018 by Scholastic Inc.
Copy provided by publisher

Sarai's best friend Isa has moved, so Sarai has to go up against the mean girls in the cafeteria by herself. She's not afraid to do this; she just wishes she didn't have to. A new girl, Christina, moves into the class, but she is very quiet and shy, and Sarai is not sure that they have enough in common to be friends. There's plenty going on in Sarai's life to keep her busy, between her cousins who now live nearby and her sisters. She also decides to compete in the school talent show, and Christina ends up being surprisingly helpful.
Strengths: I can see this quick read being popular at book fairs and in classroom libraries. The covers are colorful, the interior illustrations are attractive, and Sarai is generally positive and upbeat.
Weaknesses: Even though Sarai doesn't want the teacher to tell the mean girls to behave, I wished that an adult had stepped in.
What I really think: Again, too young for most of my students. The publisher's suggestion of grades 2-4 is probably right on.

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