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“In a way, getting second place today feels more important than all my first place wins. I never would have expected that,” Valeria –Longboard Letdown
Longboard Let Down
by Jake Maddox
AR Test, Diverse Characters
Valeria loves longboarding and going to competitions. She’s always been one of the best downhill longboarders around. But when Valeria injures her arm, she isn’t sure she wants to jump back on a longboard. Valeria is no longer fearless; instead, she’s overwhelmed by doubts and insecurities. When her best friend, Mateo, tries to get Valeria to ride again, she keeps making up excuses.
When Valeria meets Chloe, a new girl at school, Mateo tells Chloe that Valeria can teach her to longboard. Valeria reluctantly agrees, but when Valeria gets back on the board, she crashes. Valeria wonders if she should quit longboarding. The Pro Longboard event is right around the corner, and Valeria has always dominated the local kids’ division. Will Valeria get over her fear in time to participate in the competition?
Valeria is like many of the “Mexican people in Harlow Springs. Some only spoke Spanish. Valeria, like many of her friends, had been born in Colorado. Her parents had come from Mexico.” Valeria and several of the other characters use Spanish words when speaking. While having diverse characters is a positive attribute, Valeria is stereotypically portrayed. Valeria’s family is poor and when injured she goes to the free medical clinic. Valeria lives in a trailer park and “sometimes people looked at her differently after they found out where she lived.”
Unlike Valeria, Chloe is a spoiled, rich white girl, who is a bit outrageous. She never looks down on Valeria, but she obviously doesn’t have to worry about money. Chloe’s outrageous behavior adds humor to the story. For example, during the competition, Chloe wears a gorilla suit in protest against her mother. Chloe says, “That way when people ask, ‘Which one is your daughter’ she’ll have to tell them, ‘The one in the gorilla suit.’”
Valeria is a relatable character who has to overcome her fears. Valeria meets a competitive longboarder champion, Ana, which helps Valeria realize that everyone has moments when they want to quit. However, with Ana’s encouragement, Valeria is able to get back on the board. Even though she doesn’t win the competition, Valeria thinks, “In a way, getting second place today feels more important than all my first place wins. I never would have expected that.”
Longboard Letdown will introduce readers to a sport that is often overlooked. Readers will enjoy the cute black and white illustrations that appear every 4 to 7 pages. The story has a simple plot, easy vocabulary, and realistic conflicts. The ten short chapters and full-page illustrations make Longboard Letdown an easy read. For those who would like to use Longboard Letdown as a learning opportunity, the end of the book has a Spanish word guide, word glossary, discussion questions, writing prompts, and a glossary of rodeo events. Longboard Letdown explores Valeria’s fear and teaches the importance of perseverance.
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