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I Hate English! (A Blue Ribbon Book) Paperback – September 1, 1995
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From Publishers Weekly
"Such a lonely language. Each letter stands alone and makes its own noise. Not like Chinese." Mei Mei, a bright and articulate immigrant from Hong Kong, is having much difficulty adjusting to the new language and culture at school in New York City. When she hears a story in English about traveling by covered wagon, Mei Mei cries. "She didn't want English to have words that she didn't know in Chinese. . . . She felt she might lose something." A sensitive teacher takes Mei Mei under her wing, literally bombarding the girl with words, and succeeds in breaking through her fear of losing her identity. This story of cultural adjustment rings true, and Mei Mei's dilemma is strongly affecting. Her disgruntlement with English, the fun of an outing to Jones Beach, to cite two contrasting examples, are brought vividly to life by Bjorkman's cartoon-style illustrations (watercolor with pen-and-ink outline). Differentiating carefully between the Asian and Caucasian characters, the breezy humor of the pictures alleviates what otherwise would have been a burdensome bibliotherapeutic message. Ages 5-7.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Although Ellen Levine enjoys reading and writing fiction, most of her books for young readershave been nonfiction. Writing nonfiction lets me in behind the scenes of the story. I enjoylearning new things and meeting new people, even if they lived 200 years ago.”
Real heroes,” Levine says, aren't necessarily on TV or in the news. They can be ordinarypeople who are willing to take risks for causes they believe in. Nonfiction offers a way tointroduce young readers to real people who have shown tremendous courage, even when facedwith great danger. All of us have the potential. And one doesn't have to be a grown-up,” sheadds.
When she's not writing, Levine likes to share the excitement of research and the importance ofaccuracy with young readers. Many young people think research is dull; you go to anencyclopedia, copy information, give it a title, and call it a report.” Using her books asexamples, Ellen explains how to get other, more interesting information. I may not mention theexact words, but I talk to young people about primary and secondary sources. If I'm speakingwith third graders, I ask them, 'Where would I go if I wanted to find out what it's like to be athird grader?' Most will say, 'Read a book.' But when they say, 'Ask a third grader,' I knowthey've understood what I mean by a primary source of inspiration.”
For If You Were an Animal Doctor, for example, Ellen witnessed an emergency operation on acow. While doing research in Wyoming for Ready, Aim, Fire!, her biography of Annie Oakley,she got to hold the gun Ms. Oakley is believed to have shot in the presence of the Queen ofEngland. It gave me such a strong feeling about this person,” she says. That's part of research,too.”
Ellen Levine is the author of many acclaimed books, both fiction and nonfiction. Among them:If You Traveled West in a Covered Wagon, If Your Name Was Changed at Ellis Island, I Hate English!, If You Lived at the Time of Martin Luther King, and Secret Missions. Her recent book, Freedom's Children: Young Civil Rights Activists Tell Their Own Stories, was named one of the Ten Best Children's Books of the Year by The New York Times, and Best Book for Young Adults by the American Library Association.
Ellen divides her time between New York City and Salem, New York.
Steve Bjorkman is the celebrated illustrator of numerous books for children, including Jeff Foxworthy's New York Times bestsellering picture books DIRT ON MY SHIRT and SILLY STREET, as well as EMIILY'S EVERYDAY MANNERS by Cindy Post Senning and Peggy Post, and Jay McGraw's LIFE STRATEGIES FOR DEALING WITH BULLIES. He lives with his wife in California. SPLIT! SPLAT! is his first book with Scholastic Press.
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Top Customer Reviews
Now for the negatives: I think the language learning aspect was minimalized, and it undercuts the struggle that learning a second language can be, as well as how long it can take. Also, I thought it was somewhat stereo-typical of Asian-Americans in aspects such as her being good at math and the Chinatown learning center being able to cook the seafood. I'm not saying that books can't showcase such things in their books, but I felt that the main character was flat, except for stereotyped characteristics.
I would use this book as a jumping off point for a discussion in which immigrant students tell about what their experiences were like, and their feelings towards English and other American customs and traditions.
It's certainly not a step-by-step guide on how to solve these problems, but it's a first step in understanding, and perhaps more important for immigrant children, acknowledging and validating these struggles.
Their native language is the language of home, and of all the attachments that have already been formed. Learning English can feel like a betrayal of that, even though, ultimately, it can be an enrichment. This book catches the emotions involved, and a gifted teacher who persists, and understands, this little girl's reluctance.
When I lived in Thailand, I often became frustrated and angry when I wanted to answer someone in Thai and tell them what I understood or knew about a subject, but was trapped by my lack of fluency in their language. I used to think, "Boy! If they could only understand me in English, then I'd tell them!" People would often mistake my lack of ability to communicate with lack of intelligence, which would frustrate me further. I will share this book with my students and hope I understand what they going through at times.