Elem. – Starting Over in Sunset Park

Pelaez, Jose & Lynn McGee. Starting Over in Sunset Park. Tilbury House Publishers, 2021. 978-0-884-48844-6 p. 40. $17.95. Grades 1-5. 

Brooklyn, New York, can be a lonely and intimidating place for an eight-year-old girl. Especially a girl that moves to the United States for the first time and speaks very little English. Starting Over in Sunset Park is the story of an immigrant girl finding her place in a vastly different environment than what she had previously known. Jessica and her mother Camila moved from the Dominican Republic into a crowded apartment in Brooklyn to live with cousins. With the apartment feeling a bit crowded, Jessica’s mother finds work making holiday decorations in a factory so that they can afford their own place to live. Jessica also feels isolated in her new school, the playground is challenging to play in, and she cannot understand the English she hears all day long. Throughout the story, the reader feels Jessica’s intense longing for her previous home and the desire to feel accepted and comfortable in this new place. Little by little, Jessica and her mother adapt to their new home, and thanks to an incredible experience, mother and daughter are inspired to make the best of their situation. Starting Over in Sunset Park will resonate with any reader who has experienced change and begun anew.

THOUGHTS: Starting Over in Sunset Park is a lovely picture book that embraces immigration, change, and overcoming obstacles. Jessica and Camilia’s journey is compassionate and full of hope. With the inclusion of the Spanish Language, this picture book would resonate strongly with anyone who has ever made a home in a new country and learned a new language.

Picture Book          Marie Mengel, Reading SD

A Dominican girl shares her experience moving to New York City with her mother. After her first airplane ride, the young girl is homesick and nervous about settling into their new neighborhood. Feeling at home isn’t easy while staying with family but Mama soon gets a job in a factory making seasonal decorations and a new apartment just for the two of them. Once school starts, the girl is frustrated trying to keep up with the lessons in English but makes progress thanks to help from Mama and an understanding teacher. Cat-sitting for neighbors provides the duo with a side income and a steady stream of feline friends who are also adjusting to new surroundings. Before long, she and Mama begin to settle in, make friends and start to feel at home in the city. Mother, daughter, and their immediate family are portrayed as having brown skin and dark hair. The girl wears her hair in beaded braids while mother’s is long and naturally curly. Background scenes featuring diverse individuals are included throughout detailed, brightly colored illustrations of their day-to-day lives. Spanish phrases followed by English translations are sprinkled throughout the first-person narrative text. Graphic style illustrations paired with text bubbles are scattered among immersive full page illustrations teeming with details. Although the timeline appears to be approximately a year, Halloween and Christmas decorations are featured heavily within the illustrations.

THOUGHTS: A relatable read about one family’s experience immigrating from the Dominican Republic to Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

Picture Book          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD 

Picture Books – Water Princess; Marta; Became a Bird

Verde, Susan. The Water Princess. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2016. 978-0-399-17258-8. Unpaged. $17.99. Gr. K-3.

This gorgeous picture book is based on the childhood experience of fashion model and activist Georgie Badiel. A princess, named Gie Gie, has a magnificent kingdom and wonderful powers. But the one thing she wishes for, to make the water come closer, Gie Gie cannot do. Every day she and her mother walk miles to get water, “dusty, earth-colored liquid.” Gie Gie dances with her mother on the journey there and plays with her friends while her mother waits in line for their turn. When they arrive home, mother boils water for them to drink. Gie Gie cleans their clothes, and the dinner is fixed. The next morning the journey for water is to be repeated again. THOUGHTS: The pictures are beautifully done and make you feel hot and parched. This book is a gentle, positive way to introduce the struggle some societies have over water. It is also based on a true story and has pictures in the back of Georgie Badiel and how she raised money for a well in a school situated in an area with no water. A great introductory read for a service project and to help students be aware of what some children struggle with.

Picture Book      Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School

 

Arena, Jen. Marta! Big & Small. New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2016. 978-1-62672-243-9. Unpaged. $16.99. Gr. PreK-1.

Marta is a clever girl who lives in a jungle and knows Spanish. She teaches the reader descriptive words as well as animal names throughout the book. Marta shows the reader how she’s slow compared to a horse, but fast when matched with a turtle. When a snake arrives on the scene, will Marta be as tasty as she looks? She is ingeniosa and escapes with a smile.  THOUGHTS: This fun little book incorporates Spanish & English, opposites, similarities, comparisons and animals. It’s easy to follow while still having a lot of content. Perfect for Preschool through 1st Grade when introducing any of the above topics.

Picture Book      Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School

 

Chabbert, Ingrid & Guridi. The Day I Became a Bird. Toronto: Kids Can Press, 2016. 978-1771-3862-10. Unpaged. $12.99. Gr. 1+.

In this sweet and unusual book, a boy falls in love with a girl for the first time. She however, only has eyes for the birds. The boy decides instead of passively waiting, to do something that will definitely catch her attention.  Whether in class or on the soccer field, he wholeheartedly makes a transformation into a large bird. Will it be enough?  THOUGHTS: I loved the spare simplicity of the illustrations and the writing. The concept of the story paired with the mostly black and white images bring something rich to the reader. A wonderful read aloud for older elementary school/middle school classes.

Picture Book    Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School