by Patti Kim
Sonia Sánchez, illustrator
Picture Window Books
Press Release: Newly arrived from their faraway homeland, a boy and his family enter into the lights, noise, and traffic of a busy America city. The language is unfamiliar. Food, habits, games, and gestures are puzzling. The boy clings tightly to his special keepsake from home and wonders how he will find his way. How will he once again become the happy, confident kid he used to be? Walk in his shoes as he takes the first tentative steps toward discovering joy in his new world.
Opening: A young boy looks out the plane window as the plane lands at JFK Airport. Walking to customs, unable to read the jumbled looking signs, the boy is full of conflicting emotions that range from scared to excited.
About the Story: A map in the book indicates the young boy and his family have landed in New York City. He finds the signs unreadable and his image on the shiny floor fascinating. The city is large, noisy, crowded, and full of numerous tall buildings, which look scary. He does not look happy with his new apartment home. His only comfort comes from a red seed he brought from his homeland.
While looking out his window, lonely and bored, the young boy accidentally drops his red seed. It lands on a young girl passing by. She picks up the red seed and jump ropes away. The boy tries yelling out his window, but the girl does not understand him. Racing down the apartment stairs the boy continues to yell for the girl. He wanders the streets after the young girl. The corner grocer waves and the young boy waves back. Passing a bakery, the delicious smell of fresh baked rolls tickles his nose.
Wandering through Central Park, the young boy seems happy and he smiles. As he continues to stroll through the park, he finds the little girl hanging from a tree branch. Together, they bury the red seed from the boy’s homeland and over time, a young tree sprouts. The day finally arrives when the young boy realizes, “I am here.”
What I Thought: The above is longer than normal, so I will try to make this section short. I love the book. There is no text. The entire story is told through illustration and then the author tells her own story, similar to the young boy’s, after the illustrations end. The book is gorgeous in and out. The front cover is the same with the dust jacket off. The back jacket texts are snippets of reviews, but take it off, and there is a short synopsis.
How do you make a new
country feel like a home?
An old keepsake . . .
a new friend . . .
and a little time.
Walk in one boy’s shoes
as he takes the first
tentative steps toward
in his new world.
Arranged to look like a graphic novel, the illustrations easily tell the young boy’s story. There are numerous ways Here I am can be useful. It can possibly ease some of the fears and worries new immigrant children must have. Schools can use the story to teach diversity and the need to make new students, immigrant and those from other districts, feel welcome, while reminding teachers of the initial language difficulties new immigrants may be facing. Counselors can read Here I am with new students to help them open up about their own struggles.
Parents can use Here I am for any of the reasons above. They can share a moment with their child looking at this richly detailed story of an immigrant boy’s first years in America. That “immigrant” could be any new child at school or even a family member. We all have immigrants somewhere in our family lineage. I think kids will adore Here I am, for its story and its beauty. However, the most powerful aspect of Here I Am is that any child, anywhere in the world, no matter where they are from or where they are going, can read this book by himself or herself. Powerful pictures do not need translation.
Sonia Sánchez, illustrator website blog facebook twitter
Released September 1, 2013
Age 5 to 10 (and up)
© 2014 by Picture Window Books, used with permission
Picture Window Books is an imprint of Capstone Publishing
Test copyright © 2013 by Patti Kim
Illustrations copyright © 2013 by Sonia Sánchez