Illustrated by: Amy Huntington
Published by: Mitten Press, Imprint of Ann Arbor Media Group LLC 2007
Ages: 5 – 10 years
Theme: cross-culture friendship, misunderstanding
Opening sentence: “No English,” the new girl said, shaking her head. “Espanol.” Her name was Blanca and she was from Argentina. Mrs Bertram gave her the empty desk next to mine.
Synopsis: From the back cover – Mrs Bertram asked her class, “Can you imagine what it’s like to be surrounded by people you don’t understand?” Can you?
From the front flap – “No English” is all that Blanca, the new girl from Argentina, says. She spends her time drawing pictures instead of doing class work and that hardly seems fair to second-grader Diane. One misunderstanding follows another until Diane begins to see how afraid Blanca must feel in their classroom. Their teacher, Mrs Bertram, helps her class understand that “different” is just different, not strange or weird. She encourages the students to learn about Blanca’s home country. Diane must make things right, but how will she do that when they don’t speak the same language?
Why I like this: While the new girl Blanca and Diane became good friends, what resonated with me was the beautiful way two cultures came together. How two people from different countries learned to understand one another. As I read this story I was reminded of a holiday trip my husband and I did by bus from a small Austrian village into Hungry. We spent six days with a bunch of senior citizens who did not speak a word of English. I won’t go into details on how that happened. We communicated with drawing pictures on serviettes, pointing and a lot of laughing. We have stayed firm friends even today with two couples and their families.
This story also shows how something said or done can be taken out of context or misunderstood. Again I am reminded of a saying I came across on Facebook awhile ago. A friend commented she was “lucked out” on something she going for. My immediate thought was to respond with saying how sorry I was to hear this, as being “lucked out” in our neck of the woods and in the UK it means lost out or missed out. But after some time I checked back only to see others congratulating her. It seems “lucked out” can also mean fortunate, strike it lucky.
A useful resource in the classroom to help introduce those from different cultures it has lovely watercolours and explicit facial expressions.
Resources/Findings: Here is Jacqueline’s blog with lots of interesting stuff…. http://www.jacquelinejules.com/NoEnglish.htm check out Jacqueline reading the story to a Spanish classroom on her website.
A great resource for kids and teachers on learning another language through games and puzzles.. http://www.chillola.com/index.html/
Also what kids could do in the classroom is draw a map of the world and mark where each are from. Study the country or area they are from, using quizzes and other material. Dress up in the countries costume would also be a lot of fun.
Pop over and visit the lovely author Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog and find the tab for Perfect Picture Books. Her blog is full of resources links and activities associated with the books reviewed by many authors.