Year of Publication: 2017
Genre: Realistic Fiction (Middle Grade)
Format (How I Read It): Paperback
Estefania “Stef” Soto is itching to shake off the onion-and-cilantro embrace of Tia Perla, her family’s taco truck. She wants nothing more than for her dad to get a normal job and for Tia Perla to be put out to pasture. It’s no fun being known as the “Taco Queen” at school. But just when it looks like Stef is going to get exactly what she wants, and her family’s livelihood is threatened, she will have to become the truck’s unlikely champion.
Themes: Family is everything. Even little lies can get out of control. Embrace the things that make you unique. Work hard for your dreams. Take your time with growing up. Don’t be afraid to lean on your friends when you need support.
Character Development: I thought the character development in this book was great. I loved seeing Stef’s growth, and her flaws and struggles seemed realistic for a girl her age. I also really enjoyed her friends and classmates. The only thing missing for me was that I would have liked to know more background information on her parents and their experience as immigrants in the United States. It’s referenced to briefly and clearly has a large impact on their parenting decisions, but I would have loved to understand this on a deeper level.
Plot/Pacing: The pacing was great! I did this as a read-aloud and my students were engaged throughout the whole book. It’s engaging from the first chapter and doesn’t drag in the middle. I liked that the plot had a decent amount of drama (and in various contexts too: the taco truck, the concert, mean girls at school…), but it was never over the top. It felt realistic and relatable.
Writing Style: The chapters were short (great for read-aloud and short attention spans!) and I loved that there was Spanish seamlessly integrated throughout the novel. It was perfect for my dual language class, but would be easily understood by those who don’t speak Spanish as well. I also thought the dialogue was great and really well-written. Additionally, I loved all of the yummy food descriptions!! (And so did my students!)
“Bingeability”: Moderate-high. It’s never so intense or dramatic that you just have to keep reading to find out what happens next, but you definitely do get invested in the characters! And it’s a fun and enjoyable read. That being said, there were several times when we had to end our read-aloud for the day and my students protested because they didn’t want to stop reading! As a reading teacher, there are very few things that make me happier than this!
Emotional Investment: Moderate. Again, you definitely get invested in Stef’s plights and want her to be successful. I think the emotional investment would have been greater if we knew more about her family history, though.
Windows and Mirrors: Immigrant experience. Food truck ownership. Adolescence. Power of art.
Overall Thoughts: I really, really enjoyed this one! As I mentioned previously, I ended up doing this one as a read-aloud during the last few months of the school year. I was just looking for something short because with the hybrid school model we really didn’t have much time for read-aloud (or anything else), but I wanted to squeeze it in! It ended up being so perfect, and I can’t wait to use it again in future years. I have many Hispanic students, and it was so powerful to have a book with a Latina main character; one who speaks Spanish and has parents who speak it as their dominant language. She often translates important documents for her family and has to learn how to be confident in all parts of her identity and where her family comes from. It was also just a really relatable story about entering adolescence, so there were so many things that all of my students were able to relate to, and it made our read-aloud time that much more special and engaging. I love to stop periodically while reading to ask questions and make connections with the text, so it also helped me get to know my students even better! Incorporating culturally responsive texts in the classroom is so important and powerful, as is incorporating texts that will act as a window into others’ experiences. This is an excellent book that can be enjoyed by anyone and everyone!
Recommendation: Great read-aloud (I did it with a sixth grade class, but I think it could be good for grades 4 and up). It could also be used for a novel study/literature circle/book club. It would be great to use for learning about theme (as there are many important ones in this book). It would also be good just to read for fun! I highly recommend having this one in any home or classroom library.
Thank you for reading my review! Leave a comment letting me know if you’ve read this one or have any questions about it, and keep an eye out for my next review!