Sunday, January 30, 2022

Sofía Acosta Makes a Scene

Otheguy, Emma. Sofía Acosta Makes a Scene 
January 25th 2022 by Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Netgalley

Sofía lives with her family in a well-to-do fictional suburb of Pine Hill near New York City. Her parents, both ballet dancers, defected to the US from Cuba and teach dance at the local high school. Sofía and her siblings, Regina and Manuel, all take dance lessons and are involved in the local production of The Nutcracker. Manuel has the role of Fritz for the second year, even though he is only 8, and Regina is Dewdrop, a role that is usually hired from a professional company. Sofía would rather work on costumes than practice, but hopes to be in the party scene since her friend Tricia will most likely be there. She's already spending time away from Tricia since she was assigned to a different committee to plan a party for a teacher from Ireland who has just gotten his US citizenship; Tricia is on the decorating committee and Sofía has to work with the outspoken activist in her class, Laurita, on the history of immigration. Laurita is very passionate about a lot of things, including the new low income Acorn Apartments that are supposed to be built where there is currently a supermarket parking lot where a lot of children skateboard. The household is often filled with visitors, and Sofía's mother prides herself in allowing anyone to visit and stay if they need, and makes sure to stock the pantry with everyone's favorite snacks, even if they aren't that healthy. When the mother's best friend from Cuba, Yolanda, comes to spend time while her son, Alvero, is working with the American Ballet Theater, things get a little hectic. Sofía is having difficulties with Tricia, whose grandparents were immigrants but who now lives in a big house and belongs to the country club, and who doesn't have a good opinion of new immigrants or the new low income housing. Practices for the Nutcracker are hard, and she's not doing well. When she finds out that Alvero is thinking about defecting, she makes the mistake of confiding in Tricia. Will Sofía be able to be true to herself and also maintain her pride in her busy, Cuban family?
Strengths: Sofía is a typical middle school student who wants to please her family but is also at odds with them at times. I love that even though the parents are very busy, the household manages to expand and welcome guests, and their house is near the schools and shops. The sibling relationships are also well drawn, and Regina is both helpful towards and frustrated by her sister. It's understandable that Sofía wants to do ballet even though she doesn't like it-- who IS she if she is an Acosta who doesn't do ballet? It's the whole reason her family is in the US. Middle school is where having friends with different backgrounds can become complicated, and many relationships realign because of this, so seeing Tricia taking etiquette classes at the country club is a definite sign that things are about to change. I loved that Sofía was interested in sewing, and would have liked a lot more information about how her interest started and what she planned to do with it. 
Weaknesses: The writing definitely reflected the chaotic quality of the Acosta household, and I would have liked the story better if it had been more organized and streamlined. For example, more information about the apartment buildings and the need for them would have made this important issue clearer,. We could have done without Manuel's constant playdates and Sofía's emotional hoarding of stuffed animals.  I wonder if my students, who seem to find it hard to concentrate on anything these days, will have trouble following everything that goes on. 
What I really think: There is a lot of interesting information about the production of The Nutcracker, and I always have a few students who are involved in that, and no books except for Adrian's Nutcracked. I also really appreciated the information about Cuban immigration, especially regarding dancers, and the short overview of US immigration policies in general. I will definitely purchase a copy.

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