Estela’s Swap by Alexis O’Neill
When Lee & Low Books gave me the opportunity to do a review and giveaway, I jumped at the chance. I absolutely love children’s books and I especially love the excitement of finding a really fabulous one! As a bicultural mom, I always make my book selections with diversity in mind. By diversity, I’m not just talking about the appearance of the characters, but more the inclusiveness and sincerity of the themes. Every now and then you find a really great book that makes you feel at home and brings back memories from your childhood. Estela’s Swap is one of those books.
While sifting through their website, this book jumped right out at me. It’s bright, colorful illustrations conjured up images of festive celebrations and all things crafty. On top of that, the theme really caught my attention. My husband grew up in a border town in Texas and often visited his tío at the local mercado de pulgas (flea market). He would help them set up and watch them make sales, bargaining with each other until both parties could walk away satisfied that they’d made a good deal. It was a fond memory for him growing up, one that he talks about often, and I’m happy that we’ve discovered a book that shares the experience in such a thoughtful and intimate way. This is a book that I would read to my daughter again and again.
Estela’s Swap is a story about a little girl who joins her father and brother at the ‘swap meet’ in order to earn money for her ballet folklórico (folkloric dance) lessons. As she attempts to sell one very special item, a strong wind threatens the other booths nearby and Estela rushes in to help, even at the expense of losing her special sale item and her chances of ever earning the money for her folklórico lessons. In the end, her thoughtful actions are rewarded by a new friend who gives her a generous and personal gift.
This story resonates with me as a mother raising a Latina daughter and as someone who’s strongly influenced by Mexican culture. Estela’s story touches on the connections that we build with people in our day-to-day lives and the importance of consideration and caring for others. Estela doesn’t have much, but that doesn’t stop her from helping others and it doesn’t stop others from helping her. This book beautifully portrays the social bonds that exist in many Latino communities and the notion that we can all pitch in to help each other to reach our dreams.
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