Episode 81 | Navigating Disability and Dreams w/ Natalia Syvester

Season #2

In this episode of Our Classroom, we have the privilege of welcoming the award-winning author Natalia Sylvester, whose poignant novel "Breathe and Count Back from Ten" gives voice to Veronica, a young girl with hip dysplasia whose dream is to swim freely as a mermaid in Mermaid Cove. In an episode we’ve aptly titled “Navigating Disability and Dreams,” we'll explore the powerful themes of independence, courage, and the human spirit.

Drawing parallels with my own life, we'll delve into the complexities of parenting, as seen through Vero's experience with her protective immigrant parents. As an author who isn't afraid to confront the struggles of disability, empathetic storytelling, and the search for self despite the fractures of immigrant life, Natalia will share how her characters can help shape our understanding and foster much-needed discussions about mental health, chronic pain, and self-advocacy.

Together, we'll dive into the symbolism and language of the novel, uncover how students are engaging with its content, and see how Natalia’s personal journey intertwines with Veronica's, teaching us all to see ourselves as beautifully whole.

So, get ready for an episode that swims against the current of conventional narratives. Here's to learning and embracing the multiple layers of our existence, one story at a time.


Natalia Sylvester is the Pura BelprĂ©- and Schneider Family-honor winning author of the young adult novel Breathe and Count Back from Ten, and the award-winning author of the young adult novel Running and the adult novels Everyone Knows You Go Home and Chasing the Sun. Born in Lima, Peru, she grew up in Miami, Central Florida, and South Texas, and received her BFA from the University of Miami. Her first picture book A Maleta Full of Treasures, illustrated by Juana Medina, will be out in 2024 from Penguin Random House.

Follow: @nataliasylvester


This episode is sponsored by Stenhouse Publishers  Stenhouse Publishers amplifies educators’ voices through professional books written “by teachers, for teachers.” Check out one of our hot-off-the-press books like Nourishing Caregiver Collaborations by Nawal Qarooni. This book is rooted in the simple truth that we can’t separate knowing our students from knowing their homes, communities, and the people they love. Qarooni’s toolkit expands our understanding of literacy, embraces the strength of difference, and empowers students to share in decision-making. Use code STEN24 for 20% off the Routledge website through April 26th, 2024.