Blue Skies for Lupe, by Linda Kurtz Kingsley. Bethesda, MD: Woodbine House; 2015, 09. Hardcover. Page count: 32. ISBN: 978-1-60613-27-5. US$16.95.
How often do we tell our children “You'll do fine” and not think twice about what these words truly mean? Is it true? What does the child feel when given that reassurance? Blue Skies for Lupe narrates the story of a young girl named Lupe with spina bifida who left her native home in Mexico for California tucked in her mother's sarape. Lupe was an infant when her mother, Mami, crossed the Mexican desert in search of doctors in the United States to help Lupe. Mami wanted the best medical care for her daughter, constantly reassuring Lupe that she would “do fine.”
Linda Kurtz Kingsley found a touching way to tell a story of perseverance in the face of physical challenges by writing and illustrating a 32-page picture book based on a true story. Within the pages of her book, Kingsley charmingly captures the colorful landscapes and culture in Lupe's life, as well as offering a tribute to Lupe's Mexican heritage.
Kingsley's vivid illustrations bring Lupe's journey to life as Lupe becomes a little girl. Like many little girls, Lupe dreams of dancing, playing schoolyard games with her classmates and swimming, but she wonders how she would engage in these otherwise routine activities with her physical challenges. A child with physical challenges will easily relate to the loveable Lupe, who shares her story directly with the reader and displays a wide range of feelings as she learns to do things her “own way.” Championed by constant supportive words from her mother, such as “Just you wait. You'll do fine,” Lupe begins to realize that she “... could do almost anything” she wants and that she indeed would do fine.
Kingsley's background as a graduate with a BFA in illustration, an MA in art education, and teaching credentials and certificates as a hearing impaired specialist, communication handicapped and resource specialist, as well as many years of experience teaching children with special needs, uniquely qualify her to author this story. Young children can easily and clearly comprehend Kingsley's explanation. An 8 year old who reads at his age appropriate reading level should be able to understand the text. The book is also suited for reading with a child as a means to open the door to discussion about their special needs or the special needs of other children.
Blue Skies for Lupe is told in the first person, as if Lupe herself is having a conversation with your child. Children hear that it is typical for them to have mixed feelings about their special needs, with Lupe sometimes wondering, “How can I do this?” but at other times, stating, “I can do almost anything I want.”
Kingsley offers educational insights on spina bifida and the typical characteristics that may be seen in a child. While reading this story with your child, you can add details about your personal story and relate them to various moments in the book. Lupe tells us about her long journey to start a new life in California. She describes her legs remaining short and weak and not being able to take her first steps, or just generally being different from the other children as she arrives in a wheelchair on her first day at a new school. Fortunately, Kingsley paints a vivid picture of Lupe's positive responses to adversity and the help of her family and friends.
The illustrations are simple, childlike and convey the inherent message. One of my personal favorites is the beautiful artwork of Lupe celebrating Cinco de Mayo, as she dances in her wheelchair alongside her classmates while a band plays “Cielito Lindo,” “beautiful little sky,” her favorite song. This is a song Mami would sing when she worked in the fields picking the crops, and just one example of how Kingsley incorporates Lupe's Mexican heritage, while reinforcing that Lupe learns “how to be me.”
This lovely picture book has many teachable moments with your child. Obvious examples point toward working hard to achieve your dreams, and the value of a supportive community and family structure. The book includes a glossary of Spanish vocabulary words that are featured in the story. Both as a reader and as a clinician in a diverse clinical setting, I appreciated these multicultural aspects of the book. The story concludes with an update on the adult Lupe's accomplishments and her future aspirations.
“...just like everybody else,” Lupe has “beautiful dreams—lots and lots of them!”
Rubi Buxton, PT, DPT, PCS, CBIS
Children's Hospital Los Angeles
Los Angeles, California