Tuesday, September 24, 2019

ISLANDBORN by Junot Diaz.  Illus. by Leo Espinosa.  New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2019. 48p.  ISBN 978-0735229860 hc. $17.99     Gr. K-3      E PIC

Lola's class assignment was to "draw a picture of the country you are originally from," which seemed appropriate in her class of first-generation immigrants in a large city.  Lola was from "the Island," but left with her mother as an infant.  She had no memories of her birthplace and nothing to draw.  She decided to talk to her neighbors - all from the same place in the Carribean.  The empanada merchant told Lola about the music, her older brother remembered drinking milk from the coconut, a classmate's mother remembered the colorful clothing and buildings, and her grandmother loved the island's sandy beaches. Lola's family left the island because a hurricane destroyed their home.  Without really saying so, the author infers that many other people left the island because of a repressive political regime.  Although the island is not specifically named, Espinosa leaves visual clues in the illustrations that lead to the island's identity as the Dominican Republic.  Back in class, Lola's teacher hung all the drawings on the wall and described them as windows looking at "one another's first homes."  Lola's drawing was missing from the wall, because she learned so much from the project that she drew a whole book of pictures about her first home.  This strikingly colorful book about social justice received the 2019 Pura Belpre Honor Illustrator Award, and will delight readers from all countries.
Lynette Suckow, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI

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