Just Ask: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You! Literature Guide

Grade Level: 
PreK, K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Keywords: 
Celebrating Differences
Communities
Disability
Empathy
Kindness
Listening
Respect
by Sonia Sotomayor - A guide for parents, teachers, and group leaders to accompany the reading of this picture book. The guide below provides before, during, and after-reading discussion questions. Choose from activities and discussion questions to celebrate differences and bring out the SEL themes of self-awareness and respect for self and others who make our world more vibrant.

In this book, Sonia and her friends of diverse backgrounds and abilities share what is unique about each one of them as they work together to plant a garden. It is their differences that make the garden diverse and beautiful. The reader is invited to consider how they interact with the world and the ways they are different from everyone else. The illustrations show diverse characters, mixed race children, and children with disabilities. The author and illustrator are Latinx.

Literature Guide by Maureen Klein

Before Reading

Ask: Invite listeners to picture a garden in their mind. Describe what you “see” in your garden. If needed, prompt them to consider what colors or sizes their plants might be.

Show: The cover image on the book is of Sonia pushing a wheelbarrow. The subtitle is “Be Different, Be Brave, Be You.”  Invite listeners to pay close attention to how the children and garden in this book are different and brave and unique.

Connect: Before the story begins, the author writes “a letter to readers” in which she talks about her diabetes and the way it set her apart from other kids. She openly shares her purpose for writing this book and her hopes for the ways readers will see themselves in her characters. Read the letter aloud before reading the book.

During Reading

Ask: Woven throughout the book, the author poses several questions to the reader. Allow children to pause and reflect on the questions. Use the think, pair, share model if you are reading with several children to allow personal reflection before sharing with the whole group.

Show: The character Rafael uses an inhaler. Show the page of Rafael painting and ask them to describe how he is adding beauty to the garden and why he might be doing that instead of digging holes and planting flowers. If needed, remind listeners that Rafael said, “Quiet time helps me slow down and catch my breath.” Notice the different ways the artist shows the children's unique powers.

Connect: We all are good at different things and express ourselves in different ways. Think about a team you have been on. What would have happened if everyone played the same position or had the same strengths?

After Reading

Ask: Read the quote that includes, “... all the ways we are different make our neighborhood … more interesting and fun.”  What is something that makes you different from other people in your family? In your classroom? How do our differences make our communities more interesting and fun? 

Show: Show the pages at the end of the story that ask the question “What will you do with your powers? Ask them what they notice.  If needed, prompt them to look at the colors, shapes of plants, and the children themselves.

Connect: We all know people or have met people who are different from us. Thinking of how the kids in the book interacted with each other, what might be some ways we can build relationships with people who are different from us?  What did the characters in the book have in common with each other and with us? What are things you can do to support people who are different than you are? 

Activities

  1. Watch the Sesame Street video above with the author or listen to the author interview here.
  2. The title of the book is "Just Ask." Children with different abilities may be misunderstood because others don't understand unusual behaviors. Talk about ways to ask about differences with respect. Write a question you can just ask someone - with respect - to learn more about them.
  3. What are some things that make you yourself? Use Seesaw to describe yourself. Directions here
  4. Use the strategy of "think, pair, share" (if discussing the book virtually, use breakout rooms) to respond to the questions embedded in the book.
  5. Answer the question “What will you do with your powers?”  Be creative.  Write a blog, create a news article about your powers, make a poster, use Padlet, Seesaw or Flipgrid.