Across the world, families are crossing borders in search of a resting place where their children can be safe and go to school. 2017 saw new books coming out to help children understand the lives of other children displaced by war and poverty.
A Different Pond by the poet Bao Phi, whose family migrated to the U.S. after the American war in Vietnam, and illustrated by Thi Bui is one. Bao Phi tells a story of a small Vietnamese-American boy’s ritual of fishing early in the morning with his father to catch food for supper before his father goes to work, one of his two jobs. The text and illustrations capture the boy’s love for his father, his growing skill in their ritual, his fear, and the tight web of their family as they learn to survive in the U.S. This story is a model for writers who seek to tell their own migration story. The author selects one ritual vital to the life of a migrant family and allows the emotion and the story to flow from it.
One of my favorite books from the list is My Beautiful Birds, about a Syrian child’s survival, written and illustrated by Suzanne Del Rizzo. Del Rizzo’s polymer clay and acrylic illustrations help us imagine the black sky, the walking for days from a small child’s mind. “Day’s blur together in gritty haze. All I have left are questions. What will we do? How long will we be here?” The child has one thing in the camp that becomes home, birds he watches and feeds. And he has his parents who love him.
My Giveaways Continue on this late August day. My theme is books about our immigrant neighbors. Some of the books tell stories set in the homelands of families now in the U.S. It’s meeting immigrant families here in my state that has led to read books to help me understand their cultures. Here is one: a memoir for teens and adults. ON TWO FEET AND WINGS.
Abbas Kazerooni offers the world a remarkable memoir as he tells of his escape from revolutionary Iran as a young boy. Faced with the prospect of never seeing his parents again, he struggles to find his way in Istanbul, where survival often depends on his skill in knowing who to trust and when to flee. This is a compelling story full of tension and heartbreak. To enter, comment here. If you are an educator comment about how the book could support your work.
Warren St. John, writer of Outcasts United about a soccer team made up of refugee kids in Clarkson, Georgia said “children live in this fantastic mosaic of society.” His hope for the book was that people “might risk the awkwardness of interacting with someone unlike themselves.” The coach of the team he profiled, Luma Mufleh, recently gave a Ted Talk called, “Don’t Feel Sorry for Refugees, Believe in Them”. She invites us to understand the background or refugees and the significance of their success in the world.
St. John’s and Mufleh’s words make if essential to me to do my First Ever Book Giveaway of books that can help us all to “risk the awkwardness” of interacting that St. John talks about.
Stories in general offer first interactions readers can have with what’s unfamiliar. I’m in the possession of some stellar ones for children and teens that came as review copies about recent immigrants and refugees. This week I begin a giveway to send them out into the world to teachers and librarians and parents who can share them with readers.
My first is One Good Thing About America by Ruth Freeman, a middle grade novel for kids approximately ages 8 -12. Freeman’s protagonist is Anais; she and her little brother and Mama come to the U.S. from Congo. Anais helps readers imagine how a child experiences fear and worry for her father; her family does not know where he is, only that he is somewhere in Congo fleeing from soldiers. Anais tells her story of her first experiences in the U.S. in a series of letters to Oma, her grandmother in Congo. Through writing, she develops skill in English and follows Oma’s wish to tell her things she discovers and learns from in the U.S. Anais shows us a skill that many refugees bring to this country – she is multilingual and her teacher admires this. Anais writes, “I told [my teacher] we speak Lingala, French, and English or maybe a little English. She said it was awesome to speak 3 languages!” (p. 133) One Good Thing About America offers the intimate voice of an elementary school-aged child and allows readers to meet her and to believe in her.
Would you like my advanced reader’s copy? To enter the giveaway, post a comment here on my blog. Include your e-mail address so I can reach you, and tell me how you could use the book.