Written and illustrated by Anne O'Brian
Charlesbridge, 2015, Ages 5-8
This story is about three children—Maria, Jin, and Fatimah—who are new students in American schools. They are from different schools across the world and they do not know how to fit into this new setting. The children feel confused by the language and stay to themselves for most of the book. After practicing though the children are able to fit in with their new classmates and have fun.
Anne O’Brian’s writing style is aimed at children. She makes it so that the children who are reading or hearing this story understand that not all the people in their classroom speak the same language as them but that they can still be their friends. She uses similes to compare parts of the book to things children can relate to. For example on fourth page “Our voices flowed like water and flew between us like birds” is describing how one of the children, Maria, felt back home where she could talk with her friends in Spanish and it was easier than now where she has to learn to speak English. This helps children to see that for other children who do not always speak English, it can be hard for them to feel like they belong in the classroom.
In this book, the pictures are watercolor pictures that were digitally colored. They are very colorful and depict the children’s lives both before being in the American schools and while in them. In my opinion there are several illustrations that are very effective in developing the story. The illustrations on pages five and seven are pictures of what two of the children—Maria and Jin—see when they are trying to learn and be a part of their new school. The illustration on page five shows Maria looking at the other children at recess shouting to each other and the words don’t make sense to her the way the other children are saying them. This is showing how hard it is to hear and understand the English language especially when it isn’t someone’s first language. As for the illustration on page seven, it is of Jin trying to understand the English alphabet but it just seems like a bunch of jumbled lines to him. This again shows how hard the English language is for children who did not grow up learning it.
Personally I think that this is a great book. I would use it in a classroom to help children understand cultural differences between all of the children in the classroom. The pictures are very fun and inviting to all children. Children and parents can have fun reading this book together to learn how they have to be nice to everyone. This book can also help children who are from different cultures to understand that it takes time to learn English but to not give up.
Review by Korrie Grubb