The inspiring and timely story of Sonia Sotomayor, who rose up from a childhood of poverty and prejudice to become the first Latino to be nominated to the US Supreme Court.
Before Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor took her seat in our nation's highest court, she was just a little girl in the South Bronx. Justice Sotomayor didn't have a lot growing up, but she had what she needed -- her mother's love, a will to learn, and her own determination. With bravery she became the person she wanted to be. With hard work she succeeded. With little sunlight and only a modest plot from which to grow, Justice Sotomayor bloomed for the whole world to see.
Antes de que la magistrada de la Corte Suprema Sonia Sotomayor llegara al máximo tribunal de nuestra nación, no era más que una niñita en el South Bronx. La magistrada Sotomayor no tuvo mucho durante sus primeros años, pero sí tuvo lo que contaba -- el amor de su madre, la voluntad de aprender y su propia determinación. Con valentía se hizo la persona que quería ser. Con trabajo arduo triunfó. Con un poquito de sol en un solarcito donde crecer, la magistrada Sotomayor floreció para que todo el mundo la vea.
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Reading Group Guide Sonia Sotomayor: A Judge Grows in the Bronx
About the Book
Before Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor took her seat in our nation’s highest court, she was just a little girl in the South Bronx. Justice Sotomayor didn’t have a lot growing up, but she had what she needed—her mother’s love, a will to learn, and her own determination. With bravery she became the person she wanted to be. With hard work, she succeeded. With little sunlight and only a modest plot from which to grow, Justice Sotomayor bloomed for the whole world to see.
Author Jonah Winter compares Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor to a blossoming flower throughout Sonia Sotomayor: A Judge Grows in the Bronx. Why?
This is a bilingual book, meaning that is written in two languages—English and Spanish. Why did the author feel it was important to write this book in both languages? Do you know anyone who is bilingual?
Talk about Sonia’s mother. Why do you think she did not attend school past the third grade when she was growing up? As a mother, what kind of sacrifices did she make for Sonia and her brother? Do you think Sonia would be where she is today if she didn’t have her mother’s support? Why or why not?
Discuss the meaning of the term “role model.” Who were Sonia’s role models while she was growing up? And who were her role models later in life? Do you have a role model?
Sonia was raised in the South Bronx, a poor section of New York City. How did you feel when you read about Sonia’s home and childhood, and why? How did Sonia become a “special” judge because she grew up in the South Bronx?
Discuss the following line in the book: “Sonia’s family surrounded her like a warm blanket.” What does this mean to you?
Sonia had to overcome many hurdles when she was young, like the death of her father and being diagnosed with diabetes. Did these obstacles stand in her way, or did they make her a stronger person? What helped her to cope?
Nancy Drew books and a television show called Perry Mason encouraged young Sonia to become a judge. How? Think about the books that you are reading and the television shows that you like to watch right now. Are any causing you to think about your future career or job?
Sonia’s excellent grades in school enabled her to attend prestigious Princeton University. But what happened when Sonia arrived at Princeton? How did she feel? What were some things she had never experienced or seen before going to Princeton?
Even after being nominated for the Supreme Court, Sonia still encountered some “bumps in her path.” What were they? And how did she handle these bumps?
After reading the book, discuss as a class some of the reasons why you think President Obama chose Sonia to be the first Hispanic nominee to the Supreme Court of the United States. Why was she “the perfect choice”? And why do you think Sonia chose to speak about her mother during her announcement ceremony? Are you inspired by Sonia and her journey to the Supreme Court?
Hard work and determination are two of the most obvious themes in this book. What are some other themes you can identify?
Research and Further Activities
Find out more about the United States Supreme Court. In doing your research, try the answer the following questions:
How many justices sit on the Supreme Court?
How do the justices get selected for the Supreme Court?
How long do the justices serve on the Supreme Court?
How is the Supreme Court different from the other courts in the United States
Sonia Sotomayor is only the third female ever to sit on the United States Supreme Court. Encourage your students to discover more about the other female justices who have served on the Supreme Court. Have your class compare and contrast the each justice’s backgrounds and qualifications. How are they similar and different? And how are all of the women who have sat on the Supreme Court groundbreaking in their own unique way?
Family traditions, like getting together with cousins on Saturday nights, eating rice and beans, and listening to Merengue music, were an important part of Sonia’s childhood. What are some traditions—such as events, food, or music—that your students share with their families? Have your students talk about their traditions with their classmates.
Sonia Sotomayor knew from the age of eight what she wanted to be when she grew up. Host a class discussion about careers and ask your students what they want to be when they are older. Encourage them to ask their parents or grandparents about the career goals they had when they were young. How many of them actually did—or are still doing—a career they chose when they were young?
In the note at the end of the book, we find out that Sonia Sotomayor is a wonderful aunt to several nieces and nephews. Challenge your class to find out more about Sonia’s family today. Does her mother still live in the South Bronx? Who is Sonia’s brother? How many nieces and nephews does Sonia have?
Who are some other women in politics today or in the past who are role models for young children? Instruct your students to find out more about these notable women. Encourage them to visit your school or public library for biographies, and then have them share their findings in class.
This reading group guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.
Jonah Winter is the award-winning author of more than forty nonfiction picture books that promote environmental awareness and social and racial justice. Among them are Here Comes the Garbage Barge!; Ruth Bader Ginsburg: The Case of R.B.G. vs. Inequality; My Name is James Madison Hemings; Barack; The Founding Fathers!; and Lillian’s Right to Vote, a Jane Addams Children’s Book Award recipient and Kirkus Prize finalist.