Moving to a new place is never easy, and when the language and customs don’t make any sense, feeling at home there seems almost impossible.
Patti Kim and Sonia Sánchez’s wordless picture book brings a little boy and his family to the United States. While the rest of his family is a little more open to making a go of this new life, the boy is frustrated and intimidated by the strangeness of everything. He retreats into himself, watching the world from behind (safe) apartment windows and longing for home.
This desire for “home” is at first centred in a red seed that the boy has brought with him. Gradually, though, the meaning of the seed changes, from a reminder of another place to simply the possibility of growth. When the boy loses his seed, he sets off after it, and quickly discovers, as he wanders his new neighbourhood, that this place is full of interesting things and friendly people. While he does eventually find the seed, the boy has by that time grown confident enough to be friendly himself. He and the little girl who found the seed plant it, and as it grows, so does their friendship, including first his sister, then her brother, and eventually both children’s parents as well.
Here I Am is a lovely, contemplative story. The images do a wonderful job of helping the reader to feel the strangeness of a new place for themselves, in particular through the spoken and written language that surrounds the boy, depicted in “bla-bla-blas” and mingled letters and symbols from a variety of alphabets. The book is as valuable for young readers welcoming new immigrants into their classroom or community as for new immigrants themselves, with its focus on understanding, courage, and finding universal means of communication.
Read more reviews from Book Egg and A Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall.
Ever wonder how an author composes a wordless book when she/he is not the illustrator? Check out this interview on Capstone Connect to find out how Patti Kim did it!
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Releases September 2, 2013. Thanks to Capstone Kids and NetGalley for the review copy!