Sunday, November 3, 2013

Strange New World: Through the Eyes of Just-Arrived Immigrants

I recently purchased Here I Am by Patti Kim, illustrated by Sonia Sanchez, a wordless picture book about a boy from South Korea (unnamed but recognizable in the images) who moves with his family to an American city. I can't express my enthusiasm more eloquently than in the words of author Da Chen:
"... a marvelous picture book, a motile encapsulation of the turbulent world of a child uprooted from a faraway land, the confusion and sadness of his strange new world. Strongly compelling with powerful and whimsical visuals... A must read. What a triumph."

From the last ten or so years, here are some other picture books that beautifully and sensitively capture aspects of the brand-new-immigrant experience:

The Arrival is Shaun Tan's masterpiece of a fantasy graphic novel about a man who is forced to leave his wife and child behind in an oppressive country in order to establish a new home for them in another, freer society. Tan mixes familiar objects, places and experiences with others drawn from his prodigious imagination that intensify the feeling of being lost in the strangeness of a new place. And he draws like an angel. It's one of my all-time favorite picture books. Great for older readers as well.

The Color of Home by Mary Hoffman, illustrated by Karin Littlewood, shows how Hassan, a young refugee from Somalia, uses art to tell the story of his journey and to help him adjust to his new home.

My Diary From Here to There by Amada Irma Perez, illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez, is a bilingual book in the voice of Amada, making journal entries as her family moves from Mexico to Los Angeles.

My Name is Sangoel by Karen Lynn Williams and Khadra Mohammed, illustrated by Catherine Stock, tells the story of a Sudanese boy's solution to how he can get people in his new country to pronounce his name correctly.

My Name is Yoon by Helen Recorvits, illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska, is a moving and winsome story of a young Korean girl's adjustment to a new place and a new writing system, enlivened by playful, surreal illustrations with a lot of punch.


For lots more titles about the immigrant experience, from picture books through YA novels, see the ever-growing collection at I'm Your Neighbor Books.

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