America is often called “A Nation of Immigrants.” Opportunity and freedom call people to our shores, making the United States a diverse mix of people. Literature can help us understand their hopes and their plight.Web links to additional information and activities about Immigrants and Immigration follow these reviews.
Contributor: Peg Glisson
Angel Island: Gateway to Gold Mountain
Freedman (Becoming Ben Franklin) details the fascinating and sometimes upsetting history of the “Ellis Island of the West” as he examines Asian immigration to the U.S. at the start of the 20th century. The many Chinese immigrants who disembarked at Angel Island in the San Francisco Bay between 1910 and 1940 usually found it more detention than welcoming center. A thorough narrative, with personal vignettes and b&w archival photos, describes the taxing sea voyage from Asia, long detentions at the island, and intolerant attitudes endemic in America. Owing to strict exclusion laws for the Chinese (and later other Asian groups), thousands waited in cramped barracks for medical tests and stringent interviews. (Freedman also includes resistance stories of immigrants already settled in the country to these prejudicial laws, e.g., returning laundry to customers folded but still dirty.) Making this poignant account even more so are translated poems interspersed throughout, written by despairing detainees on barrack walls: “Nights are long, the pillow cold; who can comfort my solitude?…. Shouldn’t I just return home and learn to plow the fields?” A selected bibliography and index are included. 2013, Clarion, Ages 9-12, $17.99.
REVIEWER: ★Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly).
Anya feels disengaged at high school; at odds with her lone friend, Siobhan; annoyed with her Russian mother; and invisible to the popular boy she admires from a distance. Stomping through a park, oblivious to everything but her overwrought emotions, she steps straight into a deep well and discovers a skeleton, along with the talkative ghost to whom it belongs. Emily tells Anya that she’s been trapped for ninety years, chased to her death by the man who murdered her parents, and bound in place by an inability to leave her bones. When Anya is rescued she unknowingly takes Emily’s pinky bone with her, enabling Emily to come along. Once she adjusts to the bizarre prospect of a ghostly companion, Anya starts to enjoy the advantages: her grades improve as invisible Emily scouts classmates’ tests and reports the answers; Anya has a conversation with the boy of her dreams; Emily urges her to pursue a relationship with him; and best of all, Anya no longer feels lonely. But it turns out that Emily’s hiding a few things, including the truth about her past. As Anya starts to investigate what really happened ninety years before, Emily’s malevolent nature is revealed and becomes a threat to Anya and her family, giving Anya new appreciation for things that really matter to her. Vera Brosgol’s engaging graphic novel blends an insightful, often funny look at adolescence and the immigrant experience with a satisfyingly unsettling ghost story. 2011, First Second, Ages 12 and older. $19.99 and $15.99.
REVIEWER: CCBC (Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choices).
Told entirely in pictures, Tan’s story shows a man’s journey to a new land, his new experiences, and the people he meets. We follow this unnamed and unknown man from the packing of a family picture, accompany him on his good-bye walk through an unnamed city, and join him on the boat ride to his new home. Upon his arrival, there are many things that are familiar to him and to the reader, but there are plenty of new experiences for both: the weird looking animal that clearly becomes his pet, the box that transports him from place to place in the city, and the structure of the written language. Each of his new friends also has a story to tell; some have come to the new land with their families, and some have come alone; some come to try new things, and others come because of violence in their homeland; some arrive with many resources, and some, like our main man, come with almost nothing. The pictures are drawn with a sepia overtone, giving them the feel of ancient photographs. Small and large pictures are intermingled skillfully, giving the reader details as well as close up views of important events or people. This is a book that can be used with all age levels, although some of the violence depicted would work better with older elementary and middle school readers. It would be a welcome addition to any classroom that is studying immigration. 2007, Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, Ages 8 up, $19.99.
REVIEWER: Wendy M. Smith-D’Arezzo (Children’s Literature).
Amazing, lyrical, and fascinating, Frost’s work is astonishing in both its design and execution. Written in verse with alternating chapters from two different narrators, Frost tells the story of sisters born in Ireland in the 19th century on the Isle of Barra. Hunger leads to their family’s being ordered to leave the Isle by the bailiff; Sarah, the elder sister, chooses to stay with their grandmother in Ireland, traveling to another island Mingulay. Jeannie leaves with the rest of the family on a ship for Canada. Despite an incredible use of form, neither story becomes in the least bit stilted, flowing easily through the events of each child’s life over a roughly three-year period. In her endnote, Frost reveals that she wrote these long narrative poems to be braided vertically, so that the last word of each line in each of Sarah’s chapters connects to the first word of each line in the following chapter from Jeannie. Furthermore, the long narrative poems are structured such that each line has the same number of syllables as each girl’s age, growing almost imperceptibly as the novel progresses. The symmetry Frost uses is simply breathtaking, more so for being nearly unnoticeable without close examination. Her use of imagery and depiction of the girls’ lives elevate this work to the level of art. 2006, Frances Foster Books/Farrar Straus and Giroux, Ages 14 to 18, $16.00.
REVIEWER: Laura Ruttig (Children’s Literature).
Bread and Roses, Too
With compassion and grace, this two-time Newbery Medalist recreates a little-known period of American history–the mill workers’ strike of 1912 in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Rosa and Jake are two youngsters caught up in these desperate times. Rosa’s Italian-American mother and older sister join fellow mill workers to protest dangerous mill conditions while schoolgirl Rosa feels shamed and confused by her teacher’s description of the strikers as destructive rabble-rousers. Orphan Jake lives by his quick wits on the street. This book documents the historical strike and tells the intertwined tales of Rosa and Jake. To keep their children safe, the stikers begin sending them to stay with strangers, and so Rosa finds herself on a train to Barre, Vermont (Paterson’s current home) to live with the Gerbatis family in a stone-cutting community. Jake comes, too, masquerading as Rosa’s brother. Young fans of historical fiction will cheer as these two confront and overcome hardship after hardship, earning their own happy endings–for Rosa a return to her beloved family in Massachusetts, for Jake the embrace of a new family in Vermont. 2006, Clarion, Ages 8 to 12, $16.00.
REVIEWER: Mary Quattlebaum (Children’s Literature).
The Broken Land
Illustrations by Andrea Offermann
The Brooklyn Bridge is still under construction in 1877, but its potential to connect two parts of a growing city and its intersection with East River make it a source of great energy energy that one particularly sadistic entity would like to use to create hell on Earth. Fortunately for the residents of New York, Sam, a streetwise cardsharp, and his hopefully-more-than-just-a-pal Jin, a Chinese immigrant girl who also happens to be a fireworks expert, have cottoned on to the devilish scheme and may just have the power to stop it. First, however, the two friends must identify and find the five pillars of the city, plan and set off a massive fireworks display (which serves as a public announcement), and deal with their own confusing romantic feelings all within a couple of days or else the big bad guy is going to win. Much like Bray’s The Diviners (reviewed above), this pays tribute to a time and place in U.S. history with vivid detail, capturing both the beauty and the struggle of New York in the late nineteenth century. The backstories of Sam and Jin, along with those of several secondary cast members, add nuance to their characterizations and also imbue the city with a sense of humanity it is good and bad, gorgeous and flawed all at once. The battle for New York’s soul then becomes even more urgent, and the race against the clock makes the four-hundred-plus pages fly by. Though this is a prequel to Milford’s debut, The Boneshaker, it requires no knowledge of the other book, and it will be a true delight to fans of history, fantasy, and the triumph of good. Final illustrations not seen. Review Code: R* — Recommended. A book of special distinction. 2012, Clarion, Grades 5-9, $16.99.
REVIEWER: Kate Quealy-Gainer (The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books).
Cry of the Giraffe: Based on a True Story
Oron shares a fictionalized account of her daring rescue of Wuditu, an enslaved Ethiopian Jewish girl. Speaking in the first person, Wuditu describes her life as a member of Beta Israel, a Jewish Ethiopian community formed 1700 years ago. Wuditu grew up during a turbulent time in Ethiopian history, caught between a Marxist government and lawless rebel soldiers. Her family decides to join a secret caravan to the Sudan and then covertly to Israel, a process forbidden by the Ethiopian government. Wuditu becomes separated from her family in the Sudanese refugee camp and forced back to Ethiopia, where she lives a precarious existence in Amba Giorgis, Ethiopia, before an unexpected rescue by Oron. Wuditu is reunited with her family in Israel after three unspeakable years of hardship. Cry of the Giraffe is a powerful story of feminine courage amid terrible circumstances. Simple prose expresses Wuditu’s aspirations for education and, later, the sacrifices she makes for family and her determination to live. The story may be familiar: remove the names and setting, and this could be the story of girls in many destabilized areas, but Oron brings special attention to the complex history of Ethiopian Jews. While scenes of rape and self-induced abortion are more appropriate for older teens, this difficult yet inspiring story will encourage readers to revisit their own circumstances and better connect with world history. For those who enjoy urban survival stories or for libraries with a focus on current events or Jewish history, this would be a good addition. VOYA CODES: 4Q 3P S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal with pushing). 2010, Annick Press, Ages 15 to 18, $21.95.
REVIEWER: Caitlin Augusta (VOYA).
Denied, Detained, Deported: Stories From the Dark Side of American Immigration
Immigration remains an important and highly controversial issue here in America today. Combining both research and storytelling skills, author Bausum puts a personal face on immigration as she relates some of the less well-known stories. She also uses the book to conjure up for today’s readers key lessons to be learned from the past. The book has five chapters, each with one particular focus: exclusion, deportation, denial, detainment, or exploitation. All chapters begin with a discussion-generating quote. One quote early in the book reads, “We want them for our low-grade work, and when it is finished we want them to go home and stay there until we want them again.” Another quote, by President Lyndon B. Johnson, reads, “Our tradition as an asylum for the oppressed is going to be withheld.” Each chapter also uses a poignant example to illustrate its focus, including the detainment of Japanese-Americans during WWII, the 1862 Chinese Exclusion Act, and the deportation of Emma Goldman. These chapter snapshots will bring history alive to readers, while also putting a historical perspective on the modern reader’s understanding of immigration. 2009, National Geographic Society, . Ages 12 up, $21.95
REVIEWER: Lynn O’Connell (Children’s Literature).
The Dragon’s Child: A Story of Angel Island
Noted author Laurence Yep has often drawn on the Chinese American immigration experience in his works of historical fiction for children. Here Yep collaborates with his niece, an assistant professor of Asian American studies and sociology, to illuminate the Angel Island experience through family history. The fictional story is based on the experiences of Laurence Yep’s father and grandfather on their journeys from China to the United States. Angel Island in San Francisco was considered the Ellis Island of the West and served as a processing and detention center for immigrants from 1910 to 1940. Anti-Chinese immigration laws required new and returning Chinese to pass an intense examination to confirm their identity before entering the country. Ten-year-old Gim Lew Yep, who is leaving his village in China for the first time to live and work with his father in San Francisco, is terrified of failing the interrogation that awaits him at Angel Island. His fear is compounded by his desperate desire to prove himself to his father. Tension escalates with each short chapter as the emotional and physical journey unfolds. A descriptive author’s note at the beginning and end of the book, plus photographs and a bibliography, will have greater appeal to adult readers, but the heart of this volume is an engaging historical work for children. 2008, HarperCollins, Ages 9-12, $15.99.
REVIEWER: CCBC (Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choices, 2009).
Escaping the Tiger
Few books for younger readers deal with the stories of children escaping an oppressive and volatile government in a way that is believable and not overly childish. Manivong, however, deftly accomplishes this task, drawing on memories from her own husband’s childhood in order to shape the story of twelve-year-old Vonlai and his family as they escape from Communist Laos. As Vonlai’s family makes their getaway, he is caught up in the excitement of a better life and the idea of hope. This magic begins to fade, however, as they encounter the prejudice, back stabbing, and bribery that seems to be ever present. The family finds their way to Thailand where a refugee camp has been set up for people like them looking to start a new life elsewhere. Life at camp is an everyday struggle for food, cleanliness, and survival. The longer that Vonlai and his family reside at the camp, the more injustice they witness. It is easy to lose hope of ever getting out as they meet people that have been there for years waiting for their names to be called. Vonlai witnesses the toll that this experience is taking on each member of his family, and he begins to wonder if it is all worth it. Is life at the camp, controlled by the ever-present guards, really any better than life in Laos? Through some unlikely friendships and heart-wrenching moments, Vonlai continues to keep his upbeat optimism, resulting in a beautiful and worthy story to introduce to the older elementary school reader. 2010, HarperCollins, Ages 10 up, $14.99.
REVIEWER: Jeanna Sciarrotta (Children’s Literature).
The Fire Horse Girl
Jade Moon Chan is an unlucky Fire Horse (an unlucky Chinese zodiac for girls) with a quick temper, remarkable stubbornness, and selfish tendencies. In their small village of Jinjiu, China, the Chan family lives in the shadow of the prosperous Wu family and at age sixteen, Jade Moon is a disappointment for her failure to be a good daughter and a desirable match for someone’s son. When a visitor by the name of Sterling Promise arrives on the Chans’ doorstep bearing tragic news, Jade Moon is hopeful for a new life. Together with her father and Sterling Promise, Jade Moon embarks on a long journey to America, eventually arriving at Angel Island, the “Ellis Island of the West.” After months of detention and interrogation, Jade Moon is shocked and betrayed when she realizes that her only way forward is a daring scheme only a Fire Horse could imagine: she disguises herself as a boy, escapes the island, and slips in among the powerful thugs who control Chinatown. Risking her very life, Jade Moon needs all of her inner strength plus sheer luck to survive, especially when she uncovers the sinister corruption that threatens the lives of other young Chinese women arriving on the shores of the Gold Mountain. Honeyman provides fascinating insight into Chinese immigration to America in the 1920s. This novel would be a great whole class read or recommended read for a U.S. History class. Moreover, Jade Moon is a complex heroine and this book offers fascinating discussion points for the themes of feminism, gender roles, and diversity. Adult fans of Amy Tan may also enjoy this thoughtful, well-crafted story. VOYA CODES: 5Q 3P S A/YA (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Will appeal with pushing) . 2013, Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic, Ages 15 to Adult, $17.99.
ISBN: Joanna Lima (VOYA, February 2013).
First-Generation Immigrant Families
This important resource presents the sadly realistic glimpse of the challenges and difficulties immigrants, particularly first-generation immigrants, face when moving to the United States. Although their primary motivation for coming to the United States is to create more opportunities and to take better care of their families, they are frequently treated as second-class citizens and are not shown the respect due to them as human beings. The book presents real scenarios of the prejudice, struggles, and hardships that immigrant families face. At the end of each chapter, thought-provoking questions are included that test not only reading comprehension but also call upon one’s feelings and reflections of the material and situations presented. Throughout the text, terms are thoroughly defined and interesting statistics and factual data is provided. Colorful photographs and maps are displayed in every chapter. The Find Out More section at the end lists additional print and Internet resources for study. The index is concise and thorough. This book would be a useful addition to the library for those wishing to broaden their perspectives and understanding of those around them. 2009, Mason Crest Publishers, Ages 12 up, $22.95.
REVIEWER: Allison Fetters (Children’s Literature).
I Survived The Sinking of the Titanic, 1912
This is a simple, well-told story, suitable for newly independent or struggling readers. Traveling home to America aboard the Titanic after a visit to England, ten-year-old George worries a little about how his father will receive him, as the death of his mother has caused tension between them. Even these somber thoughts can’t keep George down for long. He enjoys being in the first class section with his Aunt Daisy and his eight-year-old sister Phoebe, but he also likes to explore. He wanders down to the lower decks where he meets an immigrant boy named Enzo and his father Marco. They become friends, but George is reprimanded for being missing and causing his family worry. Despite warnings, George sneaks down to the baggage room one evening, wanting to take a peek at the “mummy” that is supposedly being stored there. He encounters a thief and deflects the man’s attempt to get his room key by telling him about the mummy. This ruse is successful, and George escapes. And then comes the dramatic sinking of the “greatest ship in the world” (pg. 4). George’s Aunt Daisy, his sister Phoebe, and young Enzo are safely launched in one of the life boats, but there is no room for George and Marco. They fall into the sea with all the other remaining passengers. Marco saves George’s life at the cost of his own, and George is finally able to climb aboard a raft of survivors. He is ultimately reunited (happily) with his father. Tarshis has done her research, and includes an author’s note and some interesting facts in the end pages. This book has high appeal and accessible readability, punctuated by clear black and white illustrations in pen and ink. 2010, Little Apple/Scholastic, Ages 8 to 10, $4.99 and $16.99.
REVIEWER: Dawna Lisa Buchanan (Children’s Literature).
Inside Out & Back Again
In South Vietnam in 1975, ten-year-old Ha lives with her mother and three older brothers. The violence of the Vietnam War reaches them in the midst of celebrating Tet Vietnamese New Year. With Saigon falling, Ha’s family makes it onto a transport ship. Their journey’s ultimate end is the American Deep South: Alabama. Thanhha Lai’s novel chronicles Ha’s family’s flight and adaptation to their new life in poems full of insight and sharp humor. For Ha, it’s not just language and food and culture that are foreign, it’s the faces and attitudes around her and the feelings she has about herself. While some people in their new community are kind to Ha’s Vietnamese family, others are not. When her new teacher tells the class to clap when Ha counts to twenty in English, Ha is “furious / unable to explain / I already learned / fractions / and how to purify / river water. / So this is / what dumb / feels like. / I hate, hate, hate it.” Ha’s struggle with esteem, and the profound sense of longing in the story for what has been left behind, is balanced by the sense of looking forward to a future of hope as the strange new place begins to feel like home. Lai’s writing vividly conveys characters, scenes, and emotions in this compelling debut. 2011, Harper / HarperCollins, Ages 10-13, $15.99.
REVIEWER: CCBC (Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choices).
My Name is Sangoel
Karen Lynn Williams
This is the story of Sangoel, a young Sudanese refugee who relocates to the United States with his mother and sister. Sangoel is discouraged when no one in his new community can pronounce his name. Sangoel has a great idea inspired by his soccer team t-shirt; he makes a t-shirt featuring a rebus that illustrates how to pronounce his name. The other children like this so much that they all want to draw their names. This is a wonderful story about acceptance and inclusion. The watercolor illustrations are warm and expressive, offering a glimpse of the cultural differences between Sangoel’s native and adopted homelands. This title is highly recommended for libraries serving elementary school children. 2009, Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, Ages 4 to 8, $17.00.
REVIEWER: Sherry Tinerella (Catholic Library World).
Paintings by Jim Burk
Naming Liberty tells the story of an Eastern European Jewish family seeking a new life in America. Their story is cleverly balanced with the history of the Statue of Liberty. Seen through the eyes of seven-year-old Gitl, readers gain a sense of the personal struggles as the family gives up the life they know to seek freedom in America. On alternating pages, the parallel story of the creation of the Statue of Liberty comes to life. The monument was created in France as a gift to America for its 100th birthday. Readers will learn about Frederic Auguste Barthodi, the artist who created the statue, and the passion that fueled his work. As the Statue of Liberty makes its way to America, so does Gitl’s family. The story of the statue is as emotional and heartfelt as the journey of the immigrant family. The two stories merge as Gitl’s family reaches the shores of New York. When Gitl learns that Lady Liberty came to America ” in crates, by train, then by boat,” she responds, “Just like me.” Wanting to choose a new name in her new country, she asks, “Is Liberty an American name?” Later, she declares, “Here in America my name is Liberty. But you can call me Libby.” The details of both stories are fascinating. The stunning art is done in a muted palette, reflecting the era represented. Yolen has done a tremendous job of bringing history to life in a dual story that is full of heart, hope, and pride. Naming Liberty is a “must” for both Jewish and secular libraries. 2008, Philomel, Ages 7 to 12, $16.99.
REVIEWER: Barbara Bietz (Association of Jewish Libraries Newsletter).
Only One Year
Illustrations by Nicole Wong
Nine-year-old Sharon will miss her two-year-old brother, Di Di, when he leaves to live in China for one year with Nai Nai, their grandmother. Sharon doesn’t understand why Di Di can’t simply go to daycare or a neighbor’s house while her parents are working, but Mama explains the importance of Di Di learning Chinese and being raised by family. Like many Chinese American children, Sharon and her younger sister, Mary, also spent a year in China when they were two. As the seasons pass, Sharon stays busy with school, playing with friends, and building a miniature house, and she and Mary keep an album of photos sent by Nai Nai. When Di Di returns, Sharon and Mary must adjust to his presence all over again, while three-year-old Di Di deals with missing Nai Nai and life in China. Author Andrea Cheng’s simple text and clean layout, coupled with Nicole Wong’s ink illustrations, make an engaging and culturally informative read for newly independent readers. An author’s note describes the decision many immigrant families face as they weigh leaving their children with strangers against placing them in the care of loving family members who will ground them in their culture and language even if that family is half a world away. 2010, Lee & Low, Ages 6-9, $16.95.
REVIEWER: CCBC (Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choices).
N. H. Senzai
This hard-hitting, emotionally nuanced first novel views the experiences of a family of Afghan refugees through the lens of 11-year-old Fadi. Fadi’s U.S. educated parents repatriated to Afghanistan, only to have the Taliban impose order, ending his mother’s career, necessitating homeschooling for the children, and creating a dangerous, oppressive environment. When his mother’s health finally forces the family to leave, Senzai portrays the high cost of escape as not just economic ($20,000, “the family’s entire savings”) but human, through the shattering loss of Fadi’s six-year-old sister, who hesitates to grab a precious Barbie and is left behind. “Fadi looked from the edge of truck’s railing in disbelief. His six-year-old sister had been lost because of him.” Senzai skillfully focuses Fadi’s guilt against the backdrop of this grief and his adjustments to life in Fremont, California’s Little Kabul (during 9/11); as Fadi discovers a photography club and contest that might earn him tickets to India, he fantasizes about rescuing his sister. Though cultural, religious, and political pressures persist, the satisfying surprise ending offers the family hope and redemption. 2010, Simon & Schuster, Ages 8 to 12, $16.99.
REVIEWER: Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly).
Tashi and the Tibetan Flower Cure
Naomi C. Rose
This is a sweet story of a young girl and the love she has for her sickly grandfather. Tashi loves her grandfather very much. She calls him Popola. She enjoys listening to him as he sings Tibetan chants. She also enjoys the clicking of her prayer beads and the smell of incense in the air when she is with Popola. Tashi becomes worried about Popola when he spends two weeks sick in bed. Tashi asks Popola what she can do to help him feel better. He tells her the pollen from flowers can heal. She brings flowers into his room, but they are not nearly enough to help Popola. Then one day, as she is out biking with her friend Ben, she sees a flower shop. She tells her mother about it and they go and visit the man who owns the shop and tells him about Popola. The owner agrees to let them visit with Popola and when they do he sets a table and chairs for them. Tashi and her mother pack a lunch and while they are at the flower shop, something happens that they do not expect. They make friends. They return weekly during the spring and summer and with each passing week Popola gets stronger and stronger and their entire family becomes much more a part of their community. 2011, Lee & Low Books, Ages 7 to 12., $18.95.
REVIEWER: Laura J. Brown (Children’s Literature).
The Trouble with May Amelia
Jennifer L. Holm
In this sequel to Our Only May Amelia, a Newbery Honor Book, we are reintroduced to May Amelia, her seven often-obnoxious brothers, and her Finnish parents as they deal with everything from a dishonest businessman to a barn fire. Through every travail and adventure, May Amelia narrates both her and her family’s reaction with a humor and understanding that leaves readers wanting more. As the youngest child in her family and the only girl, May Amelia often feels that she is overlooked and underappreciated; however, as this book takes a more serious turn regarding logging misadventures and the potential loss of the family farm, May Amelia finds that it is not always comfortable to be the person in the limelight. May Amelia faces a particularly difficult time when her father blames her for a poor decision he makes; it is during that time that May Amelia and her brothers begin to appreciate each other in ways they had previously taken for granted. Like all of her previous works, Holm gives us a charming book with strong characterizations throughout.
REVIEWER: Jean Boreen, Ph.D. (Children’s Literature).
The Unforgetten Coat
Frank Cottrell Boyce
In the summer term just after Year Six, Julie’s Liverpool classroom warily welcomes two new boys, oddly dressed in long, fur-lined coats. The older boy, Chingis, is always on the verge of getting in trouble for his cheekiness, and he insists that his younger brother, Nergui, must not take off his hat lest he turn violent. As Julie later discovers, the real reason Nergui keeps his hat on is because he and his brother are afraid they claim that Nergui is being chased by a demon and must therefore hide, but the truth is that the boys are in the country illegally, and by the end of Julie’s account they have been whisked away in the night by authorities. Formatted as a worn school composition book with typed print and pasted-in pictures, the story is told in retrospect by Julie, whom the boys chose to be their Good Guide, a tradition they bring with them from their native Mongolia. Upon returning to the school as an adult, she finds that Chingis’ coat is still there in the lost and found, and she recalls her experiences with the boys as they learned to adapt to their environs by adopting Liverpool accents, engaging in schoolkid commerce, and playing soccer while she endeavored to learn about Mongolia. In the pockets of the coat, she finds pictures that Chingis tells her he brought from home but are instead Polaroid snapshots of the landscapes around Liverpool, framed to mimic stretches of desert, wide-open steppes, and even the shadow of a demon. The technique of including the pictures with their ambiguous content artfully drives home the larger point that the world is both bigger and smaller than Julie knows, as the scenes they depict are as foreign to her as if they had been from Mongolia, even though they are relatively local. Her interactions with the boys are as funny as they are poignant, and they delicately bring to the fore the human costs for children of the political unrest and oppression that leads to emigration. Pair with Tan’s The Arrival (BCCB 1/08) for stimulating discussion. Review Code: R — Recommended. 2011, Candlewick, Grades 4-7, $15.99.
REVIEWER: Karen Coats (The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books).
Voss, How I Come to America and Am Hero, Mostly
Vospop Vsklzwczdztwczky (Voss) is a young man from Slobovia who smuggles himself illegally to America, along with his father Bogdown and his uncle Shpoont, in a crate of black market cheese puffs. Voss tells of his nutty adventures through letters home to his friend Meero. On his first day in America, Voss realizes that Slobians are treated as the lowest of lows. However, Voss meets the elite Tiffany McBloomingdale and lands a $100,000 job. Things change for Voss when his father disappears in a mysterious hospital and he learns that the black marketer who owns the illegal cheese puffs wants to murder him. Voss finds himself tangled in an underground body part factory that uses unsuspecting Slobian immigrants as victims. Voss finds a way to rescue his father and unite the surrounding communities, thus eliminating discrimination against Slobs. The author, David Ives, has effectively put into prospective the life of an immigrant in America by combining comic relief and a creative use of the English language. 2008, G.P. Putnam’s Sons/Penguin Group, Ages 9 to 12, $17.99.
REVIEWER: Melissa Stickles (Children’s Literature).
Patricia Reilly Giff
After her mother’s death five years ago, Lydie’s father and brother immigrated from Brazil to the United States. Lydie stayed in Brazil with her aunt and uncle, but now it is time for her to leave and move to the U.S. to live with her father. Her father and brother are horse trainers in Queens, New York, and she cannot wait to show them how much she has learned about horses. When she arrives and sees her room, she is upset. It is decorated in Disney characters. They still think of her as a child even though she is twelve years old. She is given a nag to ride, but Lydie is used to riding with the wind on her horse in Brazil. She also has trouble in school with the language, and it causes her some problems. When a filly named Wild Girl comes to the farm, Lydie finally feels like she has a companion, and the two find solace together. This is a great story showing some of the problems that an immigrant to this country faces. It is also a wonderful story about a horse. The cover should entice a lot of readers. 2009, Wendy Lamb Books, Ages 9 to 12. $15.99.
REVIEWER: Donna Bode (The Lorgnette – Heart of Texas Reviews).
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