Tag: immigration

A Piece of Home by Jeri Watts

A Piece of Home by Jeri Watts

A Piece of Home by Jeri Watts, illustrated by Hyewon Yum (InfoSoup)

Hee Jun loved living in Korea where he fit in with his classmates at school and his grandmother was a respected teacher. She was also able to have an extraordinary garden there. When his father moves them to West Virginia, everything changes. Hee Jun does not fit in with his classmates due to the way he looks and the way he talks. His grandmother too is different, her inner spark gone. His little sister has problems at school too, taking out her fear physically on her teacher. So their grandmother is asked to go to school with her. Slowly, the family begins to find their place in West Virginia, even discovering a beloved flower with a new name.

Watts tells the story of immigration with an eye towards giving people time to adjust and find their footing both with a new language and a new culture. The sense of loss for the characters is palpable on the page, eliciting a real understanding of the immense change they are undergoing. The little sister’s violent reaction to school is handled with sensitivity and understanding, offering the grandmother a chance to connect with her new surroundings. The entire book is filled with deep emotions combined with a gentle nurturing attitude.

Yum’s illustrations are done in watercolor. They show a loving family that manages to thrive despite the changes. The differences between their lives in Korea and West Virginia are shown on the page, particularly with regards to the grandmother and her vibrant life in Korea compared to her lonely existence in the first weeks in the United States.

A strong and thoughtful look at immigration that beautifully explains the huge changes children undergo as they move to a new country. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Their Great Gift by John Coy

Their Great Gift by John Coy

Their Great Gift: Courage, Sacrifice and Hope in a New Land by John Coy, photographs by Wing Young Huie

This picture book is filled with gorgeous photographs of diverse people who live in the United States. The book speaks about the way that families came to our country. It talks of the dreams that they had and how difficult it was to make the journey and learn a different language. It is about the hard work that it takes to be an immigrant, the mistakes that are made, the way money is sent back home. At it’s heart this is a book about determination, grit and resilience, qualities that make our country great and that exemplify the immigrants who add so much.

Coy’s words are simple and yet very powerful. He states each fact in a way that makes it easy to understand but also in a tone that rings with truth. His focus is on humanizing immigrants, showing that they are just like all of us who may have been born here, no matter how they worship, dress or what language they speak. Don’t miss the final pages of the book where the author and the illustrator speak to the ways both their families arrived here.

The photographs in this book are what make it so lovely. Done in a mix of black and white and color, the photographs capture people of various backgrounds and cultures. There are children, adults and the elderly and each page opens to reveal faces that form a tapestry of diversity on the page.

A very timely and important picture book, this book will open discussions for elementary-aged children about the larger topic of immigration in a way they can understand. Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Review: Oskar and the Eight Blessings by Richard Simon

Oskar and the Eight Blesssings by Richard Simon

Oskar and the Eight Blessings by Richard Simon and Tanya Simon, illustrated by Mark Siegel (InfoSoup)

Oskar survived Kristallnacht in Nazi Europe and has been sent by his family to live with his aunt in New York City. When he arrives, he has to walk over 100 blocks down Broadway to reach her, hopefully before she lights the menorah at sunset. Along the way, Oskar is reminded again and again about looking for blessings in life. He is given bread by a woman feeding the birds, a comic book by the man who runs the newsstand, mittens by a boy in the park. But most of all in his long walk in the cold, he is given hope once again that he is somewhere safe.

The authors have created a picture book that speaks to the horrors of the Holocaust only in passing. Instead it is much more focused upon feeling embraced by a city even as a newly-arrived immigrant. It is about the small things that we do in kindness each day and the way that those small things build to something larger and more important for someone. This book celebrates New York City and the shelter and home that can be found there.

The illustrations are interesting for a book set in the past. They incorporate comic-like panels on the page that really work well. The illustrations have a sense of wonder about them. They capture small pieces of New York, allowing the snow and city to swirl around the reader just as they do around Oskar himself.

A lovely holiday book that is about more than either Christmas or Hanukkah but about home and hope. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.

Review: Two White Rabbits by Jairo Buitrago

Two White Rabbits by Jairo Buitrago

Two White Rabbits by Jairo Buitrago, illustrated by Rafael Yockteng, translated by Elisa Amado (InfoSoup)

A little girl and her father travel together. As they go, the little girl counts different things like chickens and the people who live by the train tracks. They are accompanied by a coyote, shown as an animal here but clearly meant to represent the person they pay to get them to safety eventually. The two board a train, riding on the roof where the little girl counts clouds and falls asleep when it gets dark. They and their coyote avoid soldiers, wait on the side of a highway, and even make new friends along the way. Her new friend gives her two white rabbits to take with them, rabbits that they eventually release into the wild near a border wall.

Filled with a powerful blend of the naive understanding of the young child and the harshness of trying to escape to a new country with a coyote, this picture book captures the risk and harrowing nature of that journey. The book ends with a statement by the President of IBBY Foundation about the millions of people who make journeys like this every year, including the hundreds of thousands of children from Central America traveling north. The author uses symbolism in a powerful way, showing the coyote as an animal and also the two white rabbits who are clearly both a present and the father and daughter themselves. The ending is ambiguous and will invite discussion about what happens to the rabbits and to the people.

The art by Yockteng is filled with delicate lines. He takes what could have been thoroughly grim moments and enlivens them with the eyes of the child. So the crossing of a muddy river becomes an adventure, the ride aboard the train is time to spend close together, and the wait by a highway is a chance to bond with another child. At the same time, readers will also see the truth, the danger and the exhaustion of the journey. It is a delicate balance that is beautifully achieved.

A book to inspire discussion, this picture book speaks the truth about desperate families looking for a better life and the risks they will take to reach it. Appropriate for ages 7-9.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Mama’s Nightingale by Edwidge Danticat

Mamas Nightingale by Edwidge Danticat

Mama’s Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation by Edwidge Danticat, illustrated by Leslie Staub

Saya’s mother has been taken to an immigration detention center and held for three months. Saya misses her a lot, spending time at night listening to her mother’s voice on the answering machine. Her Papa spends his evenings writing to judges and the media to find help, but no one ever responds. Every week, Saya and Papa go to visit her mother, but it is always hard to leave her behind again. Then Saya’s mother starts to record stories for her, all based on Haitian folk tales, some sad and some happy. Saya decides to write her own letter to the media and gains their attention. Soon Mama is brought before a judge due to the pressure brought by the media and viewers. The judge allows her to return home until her papers arrive.

Danticat is a National Book Award winner for her adult books. In her Author’s Note she speaks to the impact of immigration and separation in her own childhood. In the United States in recent years, over 70,000 parents of American-born children have been jailed or deported. This is an issue impacting every community in our country. Danticat offers not only a view of how this separation affects a child, but also a way forward for both children to feel they are doing something to help and parents who are jailed to stay in touch with their children through stories from their heritage. Beautifully written, this picture book sings the message of diversity, inclusion and humanity.

The illustrations by Staub are lush and colorful. They show the power of the human voice and shared stories in a visual way, swirling the page with images of Mama as well as from the stories being shared. The colors of joy infuse the pages just as the colors of sorrow appear on others. It is a very effective way to show the myriad of emotions that Saya is feeling.

An important book that is beautifully written and illustrated, this picture book belongs in every library. Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from copy received from Dial Books for Young Readers.

Review: Migrant by Jose Manuel Mateo

migrant

Migrant: The Journey of a Mexican Worker by Jose Manuel Mateo, illustrated by Javier Martinez Pedro

In this bilingual book, a boy from Mexico talks about the changes in his family and his village as people leave Mexico to find work in the United States.  The story begins with the boy speaking about his village and how it used to be as a farming community with small farms where he would play.  But then things changed and soon the village was just women and children with all of the men gone to find work elsewhere.  When his mother was unable to find work in the village and his father’s money stopped arriving, the had no choice but to leave too.  The story changes to one of escape, hiding and running, one that mirrors that boy’s games as a small child, but they are no longer fun here.  The family makes it safely to Los Angeles, but there are new barriers in the way with the new country.

migrant inside

Told in a unique vertical format that echoes the ancient codex, this book uses its format to great effect.  First, it mirrors the sense of a journey across distances, across cultures.  Just opening this book feel different and special and then the length of the single page captures that sense of travel and quest.  The voice of the book is also exquisitely done.  The boy looking back on his childhood, seeing the changes and then the contrast of his childhood with the frightening present is filled with a taut tension that never goes away.

migrant pages

Even as I gush about the writing, I can’t say enough about the art.  Done in a single pane that continues through the entire vertical book, it shows the village, the train that allows their escape, and finally LA.  The art has an ancient feel to it, filled with tiny details, many people, plants, houses, and more.  It’s a tribute to the history of Mexico, the thousands of people who cross the border, and the beauty of their courage.

Unique and incredibly lovely, this book is one that won’t work in public libraries due to the format.  But it’s one that is worth celebrating despite that limitation.  Get this in special collections!  Appropriate for ages 7-10.

Reviewed from copy received from Abrams Books.

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.