Wednesday, December 09, 2020

Stella Díaz Dreams Big (#3)

Dominguez, Angela. Stella Díaz Dreams Big
12 January 2020, Roaring Brook Press (MacKids Books)
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Stella and her best friend Jenny are enjoying fourth grade, even though there are some changes. Stella's older brother, Nick, is finding high school to be very challenging, and he's having trouble keeping up with his work. Jenny is involved in dance and swimming, leaving her little time for Stella's favorite group, the Sea Musketeers. Even Stella's mother, who has been divorced from Stella's father for several years, is dating new neighbor Diego. Stella starts the swim class with Jenny, and also attends an art club at school, but has trouble balancing all of these activities. Her good friend Stanley is still around, and the two are working on their egg drop project for science, but other boys in their class make fun of them, claiming that they must be "dating". Stella eventually breaks down and seeks help from her mother, who assists her in making a schedule so that she can get everything done. Stella's family goes camping with Diego and his daughter, Izzy, who is really nice and very helpful to Stella, which puts Stella at ease about her mother wandering into this new territory.
Strengths: There are not a lot of books that address how tweens need to balance their time (Delle Donne's Elle of the Ball series being a  notable exception), but this is a HUGE problem that many students face. I would love to see more of this topic in middle grade literature instead of, I don't know, bullying or everybody dying, which has been done over and over. I appreciated that Dominguez not only italicizes that Spanish words and phrases but gives an explanation about why she has done it. As far as my students go, very few of them know any Spanish, so it is helpful to have these words pointed out. Jenny's family is Vietnamese, so there is a little of that culture as well. I really appreciated that Stella was okay with her mother dating; a little apprehensive, but open to the idea, and happy to hang out with Diego and Izzy. Add this one to the "Carolyn Haywood for the 21st Century" list along with  McKay's Lulu, Florence's Jasmine Toguchi, Ahn's Krista Kim-Bap, Brown's Lola Levine, and Khan's Zayd Saleem. (We could use a few more of these with boys as the main character.)
Weaknesses: This seemed too young for my students. I'd LOVE to see Stella go to middle school, or even better, a book about Nick in middle school. 
What I really think: I won't be purchasing, but all elementary libraries should look into this series. 
Ms. Yingling

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