This book made me smile from beginning to end because it shows a healthy relationship between two children of opposite genders that grows over the years into something beautiful despite challenges. People of color are so often presented with dysfunction and abuse as the norms for their relationships in media. We’re not able to see healthy interactions despite the wealth of them out there in real life. So books like this are important as they battle the tidal wave of images telling minorities in America that the basis of their lives is dysfunction.
It also shows a side of relationships that we don’t normally get to see in in the media, except for maybe in romantic comedies. The book depicts the relationship between Cecelia and Miguel as a slow-growing one that takes its time to mature and blossom into something beautiful. We don’t see that so much anymore. The standard seems to be two people with an attraction to each other immediately end up in emotional and psychical complications. This book doesn’t take that approach and not that I suspect it would considering it’s a children’s book. But my point is that the foundation for many of our interactions later in life are established in our childhood. Much like a diet has an effect on our bodies, what we read and see in media has some effect on our minds.
In the era of “50 Shades of Grey” where you see abuse being glorified, it’s good to know we still have books out there that present healthy relationships based on mutual respect and care for one another. This may be a children’s book, but what we read as children carries powerful weight. Positive media and positive relationships are vital in a land that constantly tells minority children that they are worth less.
Some might read this and think this book somehow enforces old gender roles. It doesn’t. I never once felt like Cecelia and Miguel weren’t on equal footing. There was definitely an equality of value created between the two characters. Neither were shoe-horned in expectations of what girls and boys should do. Along the way, you get to learn a few cultural items that readers outside of the Latin-American community might not know about. Though these touches were simple, they felt very deliberate and helped to make a simple story into a very progressive one.