Review: Here I Am by Patti Kim

here i am

Here I Am by Patti Kim

This wordless picture book is the story of a boy and his family coming to an American city.  The signs don’t make any sense, the crowds are huge.  It’s noisy and big and confusing.  In the boy’s pocket is a red object from home.  It reminds him of what he left behind whenever he holds it in his hand.  He spends a lot of time at home, not interacting with anyone until one day, he drops his keepsake out of the window where a girl picks it up.  The girl heads off and the boy follows her and along the way discovers the greener parts of the city, food he recognizes, and people who are friendly.  In the end, he’s planted himself firmly into this new place.

Told entirely in pictures, this wordless book is written by a person who lived through this experience when they came to America from Korea forty years ago.  The book has an honesty that runs through it and nicely shows the time that it takes for someone to even see the positive in a new place.  It addresses the overwhelming feeling of homesickness and the jarring loss of language that isolates.  Beautifully illustrated, this book is one that has intricate images that come together to form a cohesive and powerful whole.

A remarkable capturing of the immigrant story, this book will speak to those who are immigrants and will also help others understand what children from other countries are going through.  The choice to make it wordless makes it all the more useful with immigrant populations in our communities.  Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from digital galley received from NetGalley and Capstone Young Readers.

Review: Loula Is Leaving for Africa by Anne Villeneuve

loula is leaving for Africa

Loula Is Leaving for Africa by Anne Villeneuve

Loula has had enough of her mean triplet brothers and decides to run away.  She packs up her cat, tea set and best drawing.  She knows she wants to be far away from her brothers.  She announces to her parents that she is leaving for Africa, but neither of them seem concerned.  The only one who notices that she is running away is Gilbert, the family chauffeur.  Happily, Gilbert also knows just how to get to Africa.  It will involve riding camels, crossing a desert and taking a plane and a boat.  But most importantly, it also takes lots of imagination and one good friend.

Told with wonderful wit, this book starts out like many running away books and then takes a cheery turn.  Villeneuve tells the story with a light hand, allowing her illustrations to show the truth of what is happening while the text remains primarily dialogue.  The result is a book that has depth and creativity but reads quickly and effortlessly.

Villeneuve’s art evokes Madeleine and Babar somehow.  It has a timeless feel, swirls of watercolor.  One of the most effective images is the series of sky pictures as Gilbert and Loula sit along the river as the sun goes down.  The attention to color and the motionless pair next to each other capture those moments in life when all is perfection. 

A winner of a picture book, this is one that belongs in every running-away bag or bedtime stack.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from digital galley received from NetGalley and Kids Can Press.