Who have you helped today?
“Who did I help today? It’s the question Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor tells children she asks herself every night before she goes to sleep.
Her new children’s book, “Just Help! How to Build a Better World,” challenges children to ask how they will help too. The book comes out on Tuesday and is Sotomayor’s third book for young readers.
In the book, children help in a variety of ways: sending care packages to American soldiers overseas, recycling plastic bags, cleaning up a park, donating toys to a children’s hospital, and encouraging others to vote.
“I want kids to do it intentionally, to think it’s almost a requirement for living, that trying to figure out how they’re going to create a better world should be part of the burden of their lives,” Sotomayor said. , 67, in a phone interview before the book was published.
Sotomayor said she wants the children to not only help family and friends, but also “think about how to help neighbors and how to help our community, and it takes active thinking and active action to change the world”.
The story begins with Sotomayor as a child being asked by his mother how she will help that day and follows her and other children as they find ways to help. Sotomayor tells readers that she remembers throughout her childhood watching her mother help others, both as a nurse and in the community where she lived in the Bronx.
Sotomayor’s mother, Celina Baez Sotomayor, died last year and is the inspiration for Sotomayor’s next book, tentatively titled “Just Shine”, she said. The book will be about how her mother “let others shine,” Sotomayor said. “That’s how she approached the world.”
Sotomayor said losing his mother was “a big blow”, but “being able to talk about how she inspired my life of service” felt like “a wonderful way to honor her”. There’s also a subtle homage in his new book. An older man named John who encourages children to vote is her nod to the late John Lewis, whom Sotomayor said she “greatly admired”.
Sotomayor’s other books include “Turning Pages: My Life Story” and “Just Ask! Be Different, Be Brave, Be You,” about children with challenges such as autism, dyslexia, and Down syndrome. All of the books of the court’s first Latin judge were also published in Spanish.
Sotomayor’s latest book, “Just Ask,” grew out of her experience living with diabetes, which she was diagnosed with as a child. This is a hot topic for many young people. A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that children with COVID-19 were more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes as those who had not had the virus.
Sotomayor says her message to newly diagnosed children is that the experience of having a chronic illness can make them stronger.
“Any condition in life can be viewed either as a burden or as an opportunity to grow. Because when you face life’s challenges, whether it’s a condition like diabetes or any another condition that could be a disease, you have to learn to be more resourceful and disciplined to take care of yourself and to maintain your health,” she said.
Sotomayor says living with diabetes has taught her to take care of her body and listen to it. This month, as coronavirus cases skyrocketed, she took part in pleadings in the High Court remotely, from her office. His colleagues, with the exception of Judge Neil Gorsuch, wore masks in the courtroom for the first time since judges resumed hearing arguments in person in October. This sparked stories alleging Sotomayor didn’t want to sit near anyone who was unmasked. Sotomayor and Gorsuch released a statement on Wednesday noting that while they “sometimes disagreed on the law,” they were “warm colleagues and friends.”
Speaking about his book, Sotomayor declined to discuss his decision to participate in the arguments remotely, saying only, “I am careful about my health.”
The ongoing pandemic means Sotomayor will make virtual appearances as part of her new book, including one hosted by the Chicago Public Library and another where she speaks with actress America Ferrera. On previous book tours, she often took pictures with children and gave hugs. Sotomayor said she has continued to meet school children practically during the pandemic, but admitted that it was “not as personally satisfying as receiving hugs from children”.