by Young Vo
Levine Querido, 2022. 36 pages.
Review written April 16, 2022, from a library book
2022 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #5 General Picture Books
Gibberish reminds me of The Arrival, by Shaun Tan — but for young elementary school readers. I may have had to hold back a tear when I read this book at work — it’s heart-melting.
Here’s how the book begins:
First Dat sailed on a boat,
then flew on a plane,
and today Dat will be on a school bus.
“When people speak it will sound like gibberish, Dat.
Just listen, and do the best you can,” Mah said.
Next we see Dat introduce himself to a bus driver. The bus driver answers with symbols that aren’t words and ends with “Dav?”
But he didn’t really understand.
Then the teacher talks to the class with Dat at the front — and we see gibberish coming out of her mouth, ending with the word “Dan.”
The illustrator draws everyone Dat doesn’t understand as a black-and-white cartoon space alien. With scribbles of gibberish in the air. Dat doesn’t understand anything.
But at lunchtime, after eating alone, “something unexpected fell from a tree.” It’s a cartoon girl with a lunch box. She takes Dat’s hand and plays with him.
After a tough afternoon back in the classroom, Dat is sitting alone on the bus. And then the girl drops in again! She draws on a pad and talks with Dat. As her words begin to make sense, her picture in the book gains color and becomes less cartoonish. She’s the first person who uses Dat’s actual name, and Dat learns that her name is Julie — just in time to introduce her to his mom when he gets off the bus.
This book is a wonderful way to help kids understand what it would be like to come to a new country where you don’t understand the language. A beautiful story for building empathy as well as encouraging kids in that situation to stick it out.
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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.
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