DESCRIPTION FROM THE BOOK JACKET: The snow’s no match for zapato power! A blizzard in March? It’s happening in Starwood Park! Luckily there’s a snow day at school because Freddie’s helping Mr. Vaslov clear the sidewalks with his latest invention—zapatos made just for the snow!
The weather can’t stop a thief from causing trouble in the neighborhood, though. Freddie wants to catch the culprit, and he can’t do it alone! But will the meanest kid in Starwood Park be Freddie’s crime-fighting partner?
MY TWO CENTS: Written by Jacqueline Jules and illustrated by Miguel Benítez, Freddie Ramos Stomps the Snow is the fifth of the Zapato Power books. This sweet, playful tale centers on the special experiences around a school snow day, as experienced by the protagonist of the series, Freddie Ramos. Freddie has super zapatos thanks to a special neighbor, who helps him transform his usual sneakers into super snowshoes to help his neighbors. What sets Freddie Ramos apart is how the story strikes a positive note while accurately reflecting the experiences of kids from a range of backgrounds.
The setting for Freddie Ramos opens up possibilities for subtly engaging with experiences that are relatively neglected in the sunny tales targeted at the primary grades. Despite the fact that many students live in apartments and know some financial hardships, the vast majority of books for children feature middle-class families living in single-family homes. It is refreshing, then, to follow the escapades of Freddie Ramos and his friends at the Starwood Park apartment community.
Financial concerns are a reality for Freddie and his friends, but Freddie Ramos also suggests that even young kids can take positive actions in response to difficult circumstances. Freddie worries about not having snow boots, and we learn that most of his shoes and clothes are hand-me-downs from a friend’s older brother. Importantly, Freddie frames this fact in a way that shows a focus on the positive in his community: “At Starwood Park, people shared.” Attentiveness to the needs of others is prominent in the book, and later, we see how Freddie enacts generosity. In addition to his work cleaning paths for neighbors, when he notices that most of the kids don’t have a sled, he proposes a strategy for sharing that allows all the kids in the complex to have a turn going down the big hill. The Starwood bully, Erika, appears in a more vulnerable light when her grandmother’s purse is stolen with their rent money inside.
Yet these more serious elements do not weigh down the buoyant narrative. My son (age 4) loved the special zapatos and the watch that Freddie uses to turn them on. I enjoyed the casual, untranslated incorporation of Spanish. (For why I think it’s so important that books not gloss these phrases, see this post.)
Jacqueline Jules also deftly handles the social terrain of elementary school. Like many sweet kids, Freddie finds it easier to protect his friends from bullies than to help the bully herself. But his character stretches, ultimately rising to the challenge of being kind to an unlovable classmate. Readers see that Freddie’s greatest superpower is the generosity and kindness he has learned from his community.
TEACHING TIPS: Geared toward readers in grades 1-3, the Zapato Power series would be at home on a bookshelf next to the Flat Stanley and Captain Underpants books and is a great read-alike option for students who have enjoyed these. If used for reading groups or as a class read-aloud title, Freddie Ramos Stomps the Snow offers some great opportunities for reading-writing connections. Offering a range of prompts is a great way to differentiate for students with varied writing proficiencies and interests. Try some of the following prompts with students. Younger children may be asked to draw a picture that responds to a similar prompt.
- What would you do on a snow day?
- Mr. Vladek is always designing new inventions for Freddie Ramos to try out. If you could turn one piece of clothing into a superhero tool, what would it be and how would it work?
- Write a diary entry from Erika’s perspective to show how she feels about Freddie Ramos after the purse thief is caught.
- We don’t find out much about the purse thief. Write his confession. Why does he commit these crimes?
Additional Zapato Power activities are available on Jacqueline Jules’s website here. And check out the trailer below for a closer look at Miguel Benítez’s adorable drawings.
Jacqueline Jules is the award-winning author of more than twenty children’s books, many of which were inspired by her work as a teacher and librarian. She is also an accomplished poet. When not reading, writing, or teaching, Jacqueline enjoys taking long walks, attending the theater, and spending time with her family. She lives in Northern Virginia.