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Friday, July 14, 2017

Stef Soto, Taco Queen. By Jennifer Torres. Little, Brown and Company, Hachette. 2017. $22.49 ages 9 and up

"After school, I find Tia Perla
at the far end of the parking lot,
her front end peeking shyly out
from under the shadow of a big
ash tree. But since I'm still
feeling so full of bubbles and
butterflies to have (sort of) met
Viviana Vega, it doesn't even
bother me to see her there. When
Papi honks the horn and waves,
I wave right back ... "

I'm sure you have read stories about immigrant families who are very protective of their children, and the rebellion that middle graders feel when they are embarrassed by those same parents. Stef feels as those other seventh graders feel when her father arrives at school in the Tia Perla, and waits patiently for his daughter to climb in for the ride home.

Tia Perla is her father's taco food truck, as much a member of the family as Stef and her parents are. In fact, the truck plays a large role in the way this story develops. Her father loves the work he does, serving his customers with pride. Her understanding for the pride he feels grows as she works alongside him, and gains confidence in herself. Others, especially her former friend Julia, make disparaging remarks about the dilapidated truck. Stef appreciates her father's work ethic, and the long hours spent wanting to provide a good life for his family.

When his livelihood is threatened by the city's perceived need to put unreasonable regulations in place for mobile food trucks, Stef speaks up in support of her father and other vendors. But, food is not the all that Tia Perla produces. Stef uses her to save a class dance, winning new friends and much admiration from her classmates.

Stef's first person narrative is honest and reflective. She appreciates the hard work her parents do to make a good life. She helps her Papi with his business and with translation when needed. She is a gifted artist and proves to be an effective problem solver. Her story is sure to appeal to many middle graders, and would be a great readaloud in any middle grade classroom.

It will also leave you hankering for a warm and spicy tostada!

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