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.