SONIA SOTOMAYOR: a judge grows in the Bronx by Jonah Winter and Edel Rodriguez

Sonia Sotomayor


It is evident that all along the way to the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor studied extremely hard and continuously demanded more of herself.



This book tells the story of Sonia Sotomayor’s life to date from an inconspicuous girl in the South Bronx to the first Latina justice in the Supreme Court. Clearly her story is an important one to tell. What comes across most vividly in Jonah Winter’s version is the importance of Sonia’s understanding of people without resources, her experiences of alienation at Princeton, and her mother’s unequivocal support of her. It is also evident that Sonia did not get to where she is by a stroke of good luck. All along the way, Sonia studied extremely hard and continuously demanded more of herself. Sonia Sotomayor’s story is an inspiring one. Yet in this version, it falls flat. She ends up feeling like a two-dimensional figure.

I was excited to find a read-aloud biography of a living person since my students have gotten the idea that biographies are written about deceased people who did important things long before they were born. But the tone conveyed in the mannered text and the stylized drawings in this book drain the subject of a sense of life and timeliness. The color palette and charcoal outlines of the artwork and the old-fashioned, stilted language make the book feel like a relic of the 1950’s. Sonia’s trajectory is described in this way: Oh, but Sonia the very special judge did not stop there. No no no no no. You see, Sonia was offered the chance of a lifetime: she was invited to the White House by none other than President Barack Obama… The tone feels patronizing. This is an odd word to use when describing a female justice brought up by her mother. The mismatch between content and form in this biography is equally jarring.

 I don’t know enough Spanish to judge the translations of the English that are found on each page. The reviews on Goodreads are of mixed opinions. I’ll hazard a guess that including Spanish is not enough to make this rendition of Sonia Sotomayor come alive for a Spanish-speaking reader.