by & illustrated by
Age Range: 6 - 9
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Soledad (whose name means solitude) sighs because she is a latchkey kid. Almost every day after school, she does her homework, has her supper, and falls asleep on the couch before anyone else is home. By keeping his focus firmly on Soledad’s perceptions, González enhances her feelings of isolation from the adult world, a situation reflected in Ibarra’s almost adult-free illustrations. Thus, when the neighbor Mrs. Ahmed checks on Soledad in the afternoon, the woman speaks through the door and doesn’t enter the apartment or the illustration. Likewise, Soledad’s mother appears only twice—waking Soledad up for school and coming home early from work one afternoon—and her father never. But Soledad begins to see her situation from a new angle when her friends, sisters Nedelsy and Jahniza, catch her playing with an imaginary sister. The two girls accompany Soledad home that afternoon and help her understand the advantages of time to oneself and how to think of close friends like themselves as family. In this way González creates a comforting and familiar ambience even as he deals with an uncomfortable reality. Even so, some readers will find the lack of dramatic tension a drawback, distancing Soledad because she seems so internalized. Others may bristle at the semi-baby talk of the title (both Soledad’s nickname and her almost inevitable response to too many situations). These reservations about the text (in both English and Spanish) do not apply to the artwork. Ibarra depicts Soledad’s urban environment in warm earth tones and blues, predominantly executed in chalk, and the round faces of Soledad and her friends and neighbors are stylized and child-like without being cartoonish. These strengths, combined with González’s insights into the child’s mind, create a visually inviting and emotionally encouraging experience, but one that will likely function better as a shared reading between adult and child rather than a child’s read-alone. (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: April 15th, 2003
ISBN: 0-89239-180-4
Page count: 32pp
Publisher: Children's Book Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2003