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Saturday, November 2, 2013

Here I Am, story by Patti Kim and illustated by Sonia Sanchez. Capstone Press, 2014. $16.95 ages 5 and up

"Experience a young
boy's life in a new
country, a new world
full of possibility,
and a new future of


In a letter addressed to the reader at the end of this captivating book about immigration, Patti Kim writes:

"I have to admit, moving was scary. New country, new words, new people, new school, new home. But it was also exciting. Not only did this new place have something to offer me, I grew to learn that I had something important to offer it as well."

As we notice the young boy's anxiety while on the airplane that is taking him to his new and unfamiliar home, we recognize that the transition will be a difficult one. With each passing day, the sounds, the language, the noise, the sights create confusion and consternation for him. He does not adapt quickly. The only familiar bit of home is a red seed, which he keeps safe in his pocket and with him at all times.

He thinks often about home, and resists attempts to have him move beyond his worries and concerns.
New York City is LOUD and bustling, and he doesn't understand the signs or what anyone is saying...on the streets or in school. The red seed offers up memories of home and the family he left behind, and brings some peace to his days.

The story is a powerful one and will give those who share this book an authentic look at the alienation that many immigrants experience when they must leave all they know for new opportunities. Filled with emotions that are clearly shown in the stunning illustrations created by Sonia Sanchez, using traditional and digital media, it is a story that is both frightening and hopeful. Ms. Sanchez ably captures the wide range of sentiment felt by this young boy as he first rejects all that is unfamiliar in this new place, and then finally adapts to the changes and finds solace in the neighborhood and new friendships. Her range of colors constantly alter the mood of her spreads, allowing her audience to feel everything that he is feeling.

This is both a 'window' and a 'mirror' book, letting readers see through a window into the lives of those who must make such enormous adjustments to life in a new country where so many things are strange, and a mirror for those who have also made such courageous journeys.

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