Freeman, Ruth. One Good Thing About America
March 30th 2017 by Holiday House
ARC provided by publisher at ALA
Anais and her mother and brother Jean-Claud have moved to the United States from Congo, leaving behind her father, Oma, and older brother Olivier. She is living in a room in a shelter, and trying her best to survive at school. She misses being in Africa, where it is warmer and sunnier than it is in Maine, but her teacher tells her to think of one good thing about America every day. Some days it is easier than others. Anais is worried about her father, who is being watched by the police, and doesn't understand why it is so hard for her mother to be granted asylum and for her father and brother to come to America. She makes some friends at school, enjoys her classes, and learns many of the crazy customs and practices of America.
Strengths: I very much appreciated that the author based this book on her work with students during her internship in ELL classes. She also says that she can't know exactly what it is like for her students who are new to this country, but that until they can write their own stories, she hopes this book will fill a need. I agree. We have a fair amount of ELL students in my building, and Anais voice was very similar to one of my students in particular. I, too, would like to buy books written by #ownvoices authors, but until more are available, I think that authors who have experience working with children in these situations are a good resource for my students to understand what it must be like.
Weaknesses: I'm never a fan of dialect and misspellings, although I understand the choice to use them. While there are some web sites to direct readers to information about what is going on in Africa, I would have liked a short explanation within the book.
What I really think: I will definitely buy a copy of this, and I know that our ELL teacher will want to read it!