When I got my copy of Stella Diaz Has Something to Say, I included it at the last minute to our read aloud vote versus Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan and Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan. To my surprise, it won. The themes of having a best friend end up in a different class, divorced parents, other kids poking at your vulnerable spots and mixing up Spanish for English words were appealing to my fourth graders.
Angela Dominguez’s author’s note begins, “Stella Diaz Has Something to Say is based on my childhood. How much is true? Well, if I had to say, it’s 82.9 percent true, to be exact. Like Stella I struggled with my English and Spanish, took speech classes for three years, and had a Vietnamese best friend. I had a pretty good older brother, a fun mother and a not-so-great dad.”
While I had a few bilingual students in my class, Arianny and Enrique were sophisticated translators for their families so I looked to them to help with my pronunciation.
The first line is, “The smell of albondigas fills the house when my brother, Nick, and I come home.”
“Albondigas…did I say it right?” I asked them.
Enrique shook his head and Arianny stifled a laugh.
Then Enrique said, “Albondigas.”
I repeated what I heard, “Albondigas.”
He laughed and shook his head again, “It’s good you are trying.”
Later as I repeatedly listened to an audio file of “how to pronounce albondigas” I realized I had been putting the emphasis on the syllable “di” and Arianny and Enrique were putting it on the “bon.” Apparently when describing delicious meatball soup, that makes a difference.
Four years of Spanish class helped me navigate through the dialogue. My language fear of not speaking Spanish perfectly reading Stella Diaz gave me was the opportunity to model growth mindset for my students. It also gave students the opportunity to relate to a strong #ownvoice bilingual character.
“Tu sabes que soy tu segunda madre, Stella…” As I looked up Enrique and Arianny gave me a thumbs up.