New skill – driven from NJ to lower Manhattan & Brooklyn, summer 2016
Strange but true fact about me: I love to move. Really! I’m the “go to” parent when my kids move (all three are doing so this summer), and I’ve even contemplated starting a moving consultancy to help seniors downsize. So when I see a book about moving, I can’t resist. Once you see this week’s Perfect Picture Book, you won’t be able to either – whether you enjoy moving or not.
Title: A Piece of Home
Written By: Jeri Watts
Illustrated By: Hyewon Yum
Publisher/date: Candlewick Press, June 2016
Suitable for Ages: 5-8
Themes/Topics: immigration, moving, Korea, extended family, home, gardening
Opening: “In Korea, my grandmother was a wise and wonderful teacher. When students bowed, she held her shoulders erect, but her eyes sparkled.”
Brief Synopsis: A young boy and his family relocate from urban Korea to West Virginia and he struggles to adapt to life in their new home.
Links to Resources:
- What reminds you of home? Draw a picture or write a story about it and share it with a friend, classmate or family member
- Welcome a new student to your school or a new family to your neighbourhood
- Ask an elderly relative or neighbour about their favourite plants; plant one in your home garden
Why I Like this Book:
A Piece of Home is a lovely intergenerational story of adapting and settling in to a new home in a new country. The main character and narrator, Hee Jun, worries not just about the challenges he faces, but about how his grandmother, who lives and moves with the family, giving up her career to do so, will thrive. While moving and adapting to a new home are the subject of several picture books (see below), A Piece of Home is unique insofar as both the narrator and his grandmother in this intergenerational family must adapt. I also love that a plant, the Rose of Sharon, plays an important role in the resolution of the story.
Ms. Yum’s soft watercolour illustrations and especially the expressive faces of Hee Jun, his family and classmates perfectly complement Watts’ text.
A Note about Craft:
Jeri Watts includes some awesome juxtapositions in this tale, including using the terms ordinary, extraordinary & different to great effect. I especially liked her observation that grandmother “could find the extraordinary held within the ordinary”, like the bright red centers in the Rose of Sharon flowers. And Hee Jun observes that in Korea, he was “ordinary,” not different, as he is upon arrival in the US.
The action in A Piece of Home occurs both in Korea and in the US. To separate the two, Ms. Watts relates the Korean scenes in past tense, but then switches to present tense in the US. To tie them together, she subtly points out similarities, most notably in the gardens.
Other Recent Books about Moving:
In a review in the New York Times Book Review, Maria Russo reviewed A Piece of Home and several other 2016 releases about moving, including
Before I Leave, Jessixa Bagley (Neal Porter/Roaring Brook), about a hedgehog who moves from his anteater friend
I’m New Here, Anne Sibley O’Brien (Charlesbridge, 2015) follows three recent immigrants who struggle to adapt and fit in at their new school in the US. Ms. Sibley has created a website, imyourneighborbooks.org, that showcases “children’s books and reading projects building bridges between ‘new arrivals’ and ‘long-term communities.’”
The Seeds of Friendship, Michael Foreman (Candlewick Press, 2015), is about a boy who immigrates to England and finds solace, and friendship, by planting gardens
My Two Blankets, Irena Kobald & Freya Blackwood (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014), uses an old and new blanket as metaphors for language and the acquisition of a new language in a new home.