Review posted April 21, 2016.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York, 2015. 32 pages.
This is a simply lovely book that poetically shows the reader what it feels like to be an immigrant in a country where you don’t know the language.
On the page where our narrator says, “Nobody spoke like I did,” we see strange shapes coming out of people’s mouths all around.
When I went out, it was like standing
under a waterfall of strange sounds.
The waterfall was cold.
It made me feel alone.
I felt like I wasn’t me anymore.
When I was at home,
I wrapped myself in a blanket
of my own words and sounds.
I called it my old blanket.
My old blanket was warm.
It was soft. It covered me all over.
It made me feel safe.
Sometimes I didn’t want to go out.
I wanted to stay under my
old blanket forever.
She meets a girl in the park. Slowly a friendship develops, with shared activities. Slowly she begins to learn words of her new home.
At night, when I lay in bed
under my old blanket,
I whispered the new words
again and again.
Soon they didn’t sound so cold
and sharp anymore.
They started to sound warm and soft.
I was weaving a new blanket.
The new blanket grows warm and soft and comfortable as the old one.
The metaphor used in this book is cozy and accessible. Readers will feel happy with the immigrant child as she finds joy in her new home. The soft pictures beautifully accompany the text, dipping into the metaphorical when the blankets are described.
We read on the back flap that the author was inspired to write the book by a friendship that developed between her own daughter and a Sudanese child. She teaches aboriginal children in Australian outback communities who use English as their fifth language.
This book is a lovely way to build bridges of understanding.