Monday, 10 July 2017

Here I am by Patti Kim Illustrated by Sonia Sanchez Review by Chitra Soundar

How do you belong? Fit in? Not feel like the other? Especially when there's no way to go back and no place to go back to?

In this wordless picture book Here I am, Patti Kim and Sonia Sánchez bring the awe, the unfamiliarity of a new city to a young immigrant. As there are no words, children who are in similar situations, (sadly more of them nowadays), can fill it in with their own unique stories. The cities they might have found refuge might be different - but the strangeness of it all is not.

How do you make a new place home? When you don't speak the language and when you don't eat the same food, when buildings look different, people dress different, how do you find the bond that you seek?

How do you keep memories of your home alive in your heart while absorbing the vibrancy of your adopted city? Told from the viewpoint of this young boy, Patti Kim shows us all that there is a common humanity that binds us all. This might remind young readers and perhaps even older readers to think about those special objects they brought back from their home. Is it a photograph or a pendant? Is it a bag that has been in the family for long? Does that symbolize home now?

The story begins with the unfamiliar at first. But when the boy runs out into his neighbourhood, meets people, mingles and shares, his gift from his home becomes something everyone can share. He feels more at home now that he's not only familiar with his new community but he also contributed towards it.

Have you read A Story like the Wind by Gill Lewis where the young protagonist brings a violin with him on the boat. That's his only possession. And that is home to him. It has stories to tell and it will forever be precious.

In beautiful watercolour brushstrokes, Spanish illustrator Sonia Sánchez brings the city alive for us. It's a great book to share with children of all ages right up to secondary school. It's a great book to initiate questions and discussions, interpret feelings and importantly be empathetic - wear the shoes of an immigrant or a refugee as you walk through your own city - what do you see?

Here is the trailer for this book.

Check out the book here.


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