This bilingual (English and Spanish) book confronts the issue of racism through a minor name-calling incident at school. Benjamin’s friend James, in the heat of “sore-losership,” uses an ethnic slur that is not identified in the text. Benjamin is very troubled by this, but his father helps him to see that the word does not define him and that he should be proud of his dual Jewish-Mexican heritage. The story’s resolution is unrealistically easy. In fact, it’s not so much about prejudice as about thoughtlessness. It turns out that James needs to learn manners and sportsmanship more than he needs to un-learn prejudicial attitudes. The writing (at least in English) is awkward and didactic, and the art is somewhat amateurish. However, the book does address an issue not often encountered in children’s literature and may be useful as bibliotherapy or to open discussions on the topics of prejudice, or even name-calling. The issue is tied to Judaic and Latino heritage but is treated in a universal fashion that can be applied to any ethnic group. For ages 5 – 7.
Heidi Estrin is librarian for the Feldman Children’s Library at Congregation B’nai Israel in Boca Raton, FL. She is a past chair of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee for the Association of Jewish Libraries.