Here I Am
story by Patti Kim; pictures by Sonia Sanchez
2013 (Capstone Books)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher
Check out Nonfiction Monday at Perogies & Gyoza
In this new wordless book, a young boy and his family move from Asia to a large American city. He stares out the airplane window with a forlorn face. The signs in the airport are just a jumble of letters with no meaning for him. This new place is terribly noisy and busy. His only release is a red seed, from his homeland, that he keeps in his pocket. It reminds him of his old home and its sights and sounds. He goes to school and nothing makes sense. It's all gibberish to him. Much time is spent looking out windows and feeling sorry about his situation. One day, while sitting again at the window, he sees a young girl jumping rope on the sidewalk. He drops his valuable red seed on the girl's head. She picks it up and goes on her way. The boy is forced to leave his apartment and track down the girl. In the process of finding her, he discovers that this new place may not be so bad after all.
This is one of the best books that I have read this year. Here I Am captures the experience of moving to a new country with such heart and warmth, but it is not cloyingly sweet. The illustrations brilliantly show you the cacophony of a new town when you don't know the language and the main character's initial despondency. I will be using this book with two small groups tomorrow to show how we can use illustrations to infer a character's mood. I have students who struggle with learning English, so Here I Am will serve as a welcome connection. Be sure to read the letter in the back of the book from author Patti Kim. It's a hopeful note for students who may be in a similar situation as she was when she was 4 years old and coming to a new country.