title: Stella Diaz Has Something to Say
author: Angela Domiguez
date: Roaring Brook Press; 2018
main character: Stella Diaz
(review based upon an advanced copy)
Stella Diaz’s family moved from Mexico City to Chicago when she was very young. So young, that she barely remembers her familia still in Mexico. Her mother prepares many of the foods from her homeland and that helps Stella maintain some of her memories. But Stella was so young that there were many words she didn’t learn in Spanish and now, she’s supposed to be learning English! Stella fumbles with her words and feels quite awkward when she needs to express herself. Of course the mean girls at school pick up on this only adding to her frustrations.
Stella has hopes that the new student coming to her class will be a girl like her and speak Spanish, but, nope! He – HE! – turns out to be another White classmate who knows no Spanish. But, he does know what it’s like to be new.
This turns out to be Stella’s growth year, the year she learns to believe in herself and she does it with a cast of supportive friends and family.
In this somewhat autobiographic novel, Dominguez centers language as a tool to express one’s self and while speaking is important to Stella, she finds that her real power comes from within. Rather than empowering either Spanish or English, Dominquez empowers Stella. She realizes that as her mother tells her, “someone can only make you feel bad if you let them. It’s just words.” (p. 133)
I really enjoyed Stella’s take on her father, who is divorced from Stella’s mom. She’s not unrealistic about him, with hopes for her parents to re-unite. She describes him by saying “And I don’t really miss Dad because he never keeps his promises.” (p. 39) This honest perspective that is provided early in the book gives readers reason to believe in Stella.
Stella’s insights into the world around her along with her growing self-confidence provide a sweet story for early middle grade readers.
The book also contains illustrations done by the author.