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Reviewed by David Korson for Readers' Favorite
Fear of public speaking is a common phobia, and this is especially true for individuals who aren’t fluent in the local language. In Carla the Conqueror by Anna Maria DiDio, we meet a young immigrant from Colombia who only learned to read and write in English a year ago. She is understandably nervous when she is given an assignment to read a story in front of her classmates. During practice sessions, Carla makes mistakes that add to her concerns. As her assignment date approaches, Carla’s anxiety leads to negative physical manifestations and situational avoidance. But Carla does not give up; her determination is greater than her apprehension. She practices with a helpful teacher to overcome her fears and fulfill her assignment by reading aloud to the entire class.
Anna Maria DiDio tactfully considers an emotion that all of us have experienced at one time or another; anxiety. Through Carla’s story, young readers are comforted by the knowledge that their fears are normal, and they are gently urged to courageously face distressing situations that might limit them. The colorful illustrations breathe life into each page, beautifully depicting the emotions of the characters and providing realistic details for each setting. I appreciate that the story not only benefits children who are nervous to read aloud but also helps us all develop empathy and compassion for individuals who struggle with a new language or similar anxieties. A relatable and empowering story of overcoming the fear of reading aloud to others, Carla the Conqueror delivers a powerful message of bravery and perseverance.