“Pig” is not “Big” and Amigas: Fifteen Candles

Reading did not come easily to me. We moved around a lot when I was a child, which means I switched schools a lot. I knew the alphabet, I knew the sounds letters made, and I knew some words by sight, but most words were a jumble of letters that I could not decipher. Somehow I missed the lesson where it was announced that the sounds the letters made could be strung together. I remember the shame of being the tallest kid in first grade and being sent to the kindergarten class for reading. It was embarrassing, but it was a gift because that is where I finally learned to read.

One day, I was sitting in that kindergarten class towering over all the smaller children, we had been given a list of 3 letter words. Once we had figured out what each word was, we were to go to the teacher and read it and he would check it off as correct. One of the words was “pig”. I went up to the teacher and told him the word was “big”. He said, “No” and sent me back to try again. Well, I kept going back and insisting that the word was “big”. Big was one of the words I had memorized and I figured that since “pig” looked so much like “big” that it must be the same and that the teacher was wrong. The teacher eventually looked at me and said, “No, the word is not big. Sound it out!”

Sound it out?! I had never heard of such a thing. Sound it out! “You mean the letters?”, I asked. He nodded his head and I stood there sounding out “p-i-g” until I said it fast enough that it sounded like a word. That’s the day that a whole new world opened up for me. There was no stopping me after that. That same school year I went from being sent to the kindergarten class for reading to being sent to the third grade class because I had gotten so good.

Books helped me through so many difficult moments in my childhood. They provided a safe place to escape and explore, to relax and imagine.

These memories resurfaced for me because I was sent the “young adult” book “Amigas: Fifteen Candles” created by Jane Startz, written by Veronica Chambers, and inspired by Jennifer Lopez.

In order to truly “get into” the book I flashed back to my early teen years where I would love to read these sort of light, fun, escapist type books. They were a welcome distraction in a childhood that was not always placid.

“Amigas : Fifteen Candles” is the first in a new series for young adults. Great literature it is not, but it’s not meant to be. As a teenager, I would have enjoyed reading serialized books like “Sweet Valley High” that had Latino characters and mentioned things like quinceañeras. The book is peppered with Spanish, but you don’t have to know Spanish to understand it. It’s also about Latino characters, but you don’t have to be Latino to enjoy it. I’d say it would be a fun, quick, summer read for a tween or early teen.

Disclosure: I received a copy of “Amigas: Fifteen Candles” in order to facilitate this review. No other compensation was received. The opinions are mine and mine alone.


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  • http://cutand-dry.blogspot.com Betty Manousos

    Aww, great! and I was just looking for a fun summer read.. Thanks for saharing it!
    B xx

  • Monkey Man

    Not so sure I will be jumping into a book about 15 year old latinas….Mrs. MM might see it as a bit creepy. Great back story about your reading. That must have been hard for you as a child.

  • http://www.unknownmami.com/ unknownmami

    I would not recommend this book for you. I got a chuckle just imagining you reading it.

  • http://www.jules-rodman.blogspot.com jules

    Isn't it amazing what triggers our brain for certain things…..

  • http://bullinachinashopmama.blogspot.com/ Tina

    I moved around a lot too. That is such a sweet story!

  • Rebecca

    I totally wish I could remember when I learned to decipher words so I could read, but I started reading when I was three or four years old and have no memory of not knowing how to read. Funny thing is that I was never a really strong reader……..

  • http://ifmomsaysok.wordpress.com Tara R.

    Just about any books that inspire a love of reading are welcome. For me, it was the Little House of the Prairie series. For my daughter is was the Harry Potter books. Even today, I feel like I'm missing a piece of clothing if I go out without a book.

  • Lifeisaphoenix

    That's how I learned to read. Phonics. It made life so much easier!

  • http://www.carmasez.com carma

    once you picked up the reading – it was full speed ahead; you are an excellent writer :-)

  • The Urban Cowboy

    Sometimes a step back is just what is needed to propel us further than imagined. Awesome, and inspiring post Mami!

  • http://www.stirfryawesomeness.com/ Tracie

    I had the opposite problem. I didn't go anywhere and felt like small town life was suffocating me. Books were my escape!

  • http://afcsoac.blogspot.com/ lisleman

    I'm impressed I can't remember much of anything about kindergarten or first grade. Little chairs, having to go to the restroom, big kids in other grades on the playground. Some little girl in the corner with a grocery bag on her head (just checking if you pay attention here).
    But here's what I really like about your post – the importance of reading. One of our daughters is now a reading specialist for a grade school and her story of struggling in grade school and being inspired by her teachers is one that I should get her to write.
    thanks (oh good thing they didn't have you read with the bag on – it's dark under there)

  • Mrs4444

    I really loved your reading story–wow! I wish I could have seen your sweet little face with the light turned on (though in a way, I feel like I did :)

  • Georgina99

    I really appreciated this post. I think literacy is one of those things that is so easily taken for granted but it is such an important social determinant for success. For me, when I was a toddler, I was late talking because my jaw was too small for my tongue. When my mouth and my tongue finally caught up with each other, the words just tumbled out and they haven't stopped since. – G

  • doreen mcgettigan

    Sounds like a great series for my tween grand kids (I love buying them books and they love reading)..
    Please stop by my blog when you have the chance I have an award for you!

  • marlaahansen

    Love this post, Mami. It made me want to cry.

  • BLOGitse

    Thanks for sharing your reading story…
    Just yesterday we spoke about school experiences with Mr.BLOGitse…how traumatized I've been because my English teacher didn't like me. She made me feel really stupid and that's why I've been hiding – too long!
    Now I don't care if I make mistakes when leaving a comment as long as I'm understood correctly. (My grammar sucks I know! :) )
    Have a good day!

  • http://www.classicnycstory.com Classic NYer

    I used to be very good at reading. I have since then become illiterate. Pity.

  • steven anthony

    I love knowing a bit more about you…shows just how strong you've3 always been.


  • Dawn (Bee and Rose)

    Reading is truly a magical experience:) It's one of the great joys of my life! This looks like a great book for many of the young girls I counsel! Thanks for sharing it!

  • TechnoBabe

    I am all for anything that is interesting enough to draw young people to reading. I for one always liked reading and I was so happy to see my children enjoy reading too. I know two of my children still read voraciously and the other reads when there is time so not as much. Hugs to you for your earnest desire to learn and keep your dignity at a young age when you were sent “back” for reading class. You are wise to know being sent back was temporary and was a turning point for a better future for you.

  • Fiddlemn

    why did I not have the brilliance? (takeoff on a comment of yours–grin!) to learn to read early, kindergarten–instead of NOW? I might have learned then to also WRITE! And I believe that writing is FUN-WORK…so long as I have something to write!

    YOU write good. Hope we one day see your name in LIGHT…but do not forget to WRITE!

  • brian

    haha. yeah you can put me in that club as well…smiles.

  • http://whendidibecomemymom.com/ When did I become my Mom

    Ah! I remember Sweet Valley High. :-)
    Reading was my escape too.

  • blueviolet

    Those series are really great for teen girls, aren't they?

  • Cnceltica

    Cute, sounds like a book for my nieces. In first grade I was sent to the 6th grade class for reading but now at the age of 39 I can come up with many different answers (none of them correct) when I do math. Weird how the brain works.

  • Mama Zen

    This sounds perfect for the middle school girls that I used to teach!

  • http://alfredliveshere.blogspot.com Brahm (alfred lives here)

    Faaantastic post, love it! “Sounding It Out” was huge for me as a kid too, and I loved reading then to escape my childhood, and now love it to dream and think… bring on the books!

  • http://greatttt.wordpress.com gaelikaa

    You are a bilingua, having both Spanish and English. My kids are the same, learning both English and Hindi. Therefore, learning to read and write is a slightly longer process. But in the process – what an advantage to have to foundations of bilingualism laid in the formative years. You are to be envied, UM, just like my own kids…..

  • http://www.thefiftyfactor.com/ Joanna Jenkins

    You are so lucky you figured reading out so early!
    :-) jj