Ten-year-old Salvador accompanies his grandmother, who does not speak English, to a community clinic in order to translate for her.
The white, male doctor is surly and rude, and the boy recognizes a need for bilingual/bicultural medical personnel in immigrant communities such as his own. This quasi-autobiographical account of a young boy aspiring to become a physician in the United States implies some disturbing conclusions with its extreme depiction, one being that only bilingual doctors are competent and/or caring. “There must be a clinic with better doctors. If only that doctor spoke Spanish…” Salvador muses. Readers learn that Abuela didn’t consult doctors in El Salvador, yet she states authoritatively that “in El Salvador, doctors really care for their patients”—a point of potential confusion for readers. Regrettably, linked to this unsatisfactory clinic visit is the message that Mexican food is unhealthy and to be avoided; while introduced to demonstrate the doctor’s cluelessness about Latin American cultures, the stereotype goes unquestioned. The abrupt conclusion is so heavy-handed and contrived that it eclipses any positive message. “That night, he imagined the amazing journey of becoming a doctor, wondering about mysterious and marvelous places like college and medical school.” Castillo’s background as a comic artist is successfully expressed in the characters’ exaggerated expressions and in her predominantly red and orange color scheme.
The stilted and didactic dialogue takes this potentially useful bilingual title from inspirational to self-congratulatory. (Picture book. 5-9)