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Islandborn Hardcover – March 13, 2018
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From School Library Journal
K-Gr 3—When Ms. Obi asks her students to draw a picture of the country they are originally from, the children are excited. All except for Lola, "What if you left before you could start remembering?" As Lola talks to some of her neighbors from the Island to draw from their memories, she learns of bats as big as blankets; a love of music and dancing; coconut water and sweet mangoes. And an island where "Even the people are like a rainbow—every shade ever made." With a place so beautiful, Lola wonders, why did people leave? Reluctantly, Mr. Mir, the building superintendent, tells her of a Monster that fell upon their Island and did as he pleased for 30 years. Though never mentioned by name, the country in question is the Dominican Republic. The Monster refers to the dictator Rafael Leónidas Trujillo. Lola learns from her assignment that "Just because you don't remember a place doesn't mean it's not in you." Espinosa's gloriously vibrant mixed-media illustrations portray a thriving community living under the shadow of the George Washington Bridge in Manhattan. As Lola learns more about her Island, the illustrations cleverly incorporate a plethora of tropical plants and color, bringing to life both Lola's neighborhood and La Isla. Lola, a Spanish language edition, is ably translated by Mlawer and publishes simultaneously. VERDICT A sensitive and beautiful story of culture, identity, and belonging—a superb picture book outing for Díaz and one to be shared broadly in a variety of settings.—Lucia Acosta, Children's Literature Specialist, Princeton, NJ
★ "With his tenacious, curious heroine and a voice that’s chatty, passionate, wise, and loving, Díaz entices readers to think about a fundamental human question: what does it mean to belong?"–Publishers Weekly, starred review
★ “A sensitive and beautiful story of culture, identity, and belonging—a superb picture book outing for Díaz and one to be shared broadly in a variety of settings.” –School Library Journal, starred review
★ “This important title will be enjoyed by young children and may spark many significant discussions.” –Booklist, starred review
Top customer reviews
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It’s long for a 2018 picture book, but I loved it! The story follows a class as they come up with what is essentially an ancestor/immigration project (my kids have done this project in school too). One little one doesn’t have any memories of where she lived before coming to her school, from when she lived on the island.
This vibrant story of remembering and identity is wonderful. And the illustrations are so bold and colorful and beautiful. I like how the author had the character find herself and how the island was illustrated in her final project.
As a mother of 3 boys, I love finding books for my sons with rich characters and a strong storyline that are relatable to our history. I am from Jamaica and moved to the United States at age 12. My boys were born here but surrounded by island culture. Islandborn by Junot Diaz is the kind of literary treasure that we love to discover.
Islandborn is about Lola's quest to understand her roots. She was born in the Dominican Republic but moved to the United States when she was a baby. She is part of a close-knit family that values their history so she grew up listening to the music, enjoying the great food and hearing some stories but she has no memory of her own experience there and doesn't fully understand why her relatives relocated. Islandborn is her story of discovery. The story builds from curiosity to discovery and takes the reader along for a delightful ride. It is a book that will capture the imagination of kids of all ages.
As an islander, I was thrilled to see that the complexity of island life (both the beauty and the struggle) was honored by Mr. Diaz. Although each island is diverse in its culture, there are a few things that we often share - our love for music and dancing, coconuts, mangoes, struggle, love of learning and the joy of community.
“Even the most beautiful places can attract a monster.”
Mr. Diaz accomplished a small miracle when it comes to writing for children - he was able to discuss an incredibly challenging time in the history of the Dominican Republic in language that is appropriate for young children. Readers understand the story of the "monster" that caused Lola's older relatives to leave home without the need for a graphic telling of the story. Older children will be curious and will likely do additional research on the challenges that Lola's relatives faced.
The illustration by Leo Espinosa is captivating! Although Junot Diaz's story is brilliant, I found myself eagerly awaiting the art on the next page of the book. It creates a huge, welcoming window to Lola's life and her Dominican culture.
Islandborn feels precious. It is the kind of book that you want to read without damaging the pages because you want to pass it to every child and save it for the next generation. It is a book that deserves many awards and I look forward to following it's journey.
Most recent customer reviews
My kids love the drawings.