Anne Sibley O'Brien has created a simple book that shows some of the obstacles children face when their families move to America. They have to learn a new language, new customs, new rules, and make new friends. She shows three children - Maria from Guatemala, Jin from Korea, and Fatimah from Somalia - and different situations at school in which they try to fit in. Maria watches classmates playing at recess and wishes she understood what they were saying and could join them. The illustration shows speech bubbles over the heads of the children with words sounded out in them. "Come on" is actually shown as "KUM AWN" and other phrases are done in the same way to emphasize how strange it all sounds to her. Jin remembers how writing and reading Korean letters felt like doors opening into a world of stories, but the English alphabet doesn't make sense to him and "the windows and doors are shut tight." Fatimah is nervous about doing something wrong because she doesn't know the way things are done in her new school. But they all keep watching the other students and then begin trying these new ways of doing things. When they do, they discover that they don't have to feel sad or alone, there are new friends and new beginnings here for them.
In the author's note, she explains that her parents moved the family to South Korea and served as medical missionaries when she was a child. So she understands the emotions of children in a new place and wants to help immigrant children feel welcome in their new communities. She suggests visiting I'm Your Neighbor to see other recommended titles like her book.
This is an excellent resource for teachers and guidance counselors who have a student that is new to the United States. The story shows that others have also felt alone and confused after such big change, but that there are opportunities to make new friends and find a new home.
Visit Curious City DPW for a Classroom & Community Guide to Welcoming Immigrants.
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