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A Piece of Home Hardcover – June 14, 2016
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From School Library Journal
K-Gr 2—When his family moves from Korea to West Virginia, Hee Jun has a difficult time adjusting. He doesn't look like the other children, he can't understand English, and when he tries to speak, the words "feel like stones…in [his] mouth." Even the sky looks "smaller and darker" than in Korea. His grandmother stays in school each day with his little sister, who is also having a hard time, but Hee Jun must cope on his own. As the months pass, though, brother, sister, and grandmother begin to learn English and Hee Jun slowly transforms from an outsider to an ordinary boy among his classmates. The story comes full circle when Hee Jun brings home a gift from a new friend—a rose of Sharon plant, the English name for the mugunghwa blossoms his grandmother grew in Korea. "'A piece of heaven,' she says. 'A piece of home.'" The young boy's distress, as well as his grandmother's, at not fitting in is evident in the large watercolor illustrations. He appears alone in his front yard, slumped over his desk, or frowning as he sits in the center of the classroom. Grandmother changes from the brightly dressed teacher she was in Korea to a bowed woman wearing drab clothing. But the mugunghwa plant, foreshadowed on the title page, brings renewed spirit to them both as they savor a piece of home. This immigration story, paired with Irena Kobald's My Two Blankets, can offer readers who feel different and alone hope that things will get better, and may encourage others to help them on their way. VERDICT The lengthy text paints a realistic picture of difficulties faced by a family striving to make a new start, and the positive resolution is quietly satisfying. A solid addition for most collections.—Marianne Saccardi, Children's Literature Consultant, Greenwich, CT
Watts’s elegant story and Yum’s soft, radiant art combine to make the book wrenching, hopeful and lovely in equal measure.
—New York Times Book Review
This gentle, compassionate immigration narrative shows the difficulties of adapting to a new culture. Unlike most picture books on the subject, its setting is contemporary and its intergenerational story reflects the struggles of several family members. Scenes in Korea are written in past tense, but once the setting shifts to America, present tense adds immediacy to the simply worded, effective storytelling. Yum, a Korean artist who moved to America, contributes sensitive and expressive watercolor illustrations. A perceptive portrayal of an important American experience.
—Booklist (starred review)
Closely observed and greatly moving, Watts’s (Kizzy Ann Stamps) story is a useful springboard for discussions about difference and tolerance.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Moving from Korea to West Virginia, a young boy leaves the familiar behind...Watts' clear storytelling successfully conveys Hee Jun's emotional journey to readers, and Yum's emotive illustrations sensitively complement the text. Immigrant children will relate to the head-spinning switch from ordinary to different, and their classmates might better understand the emotional impact of moving to a foreign land.
This immigration story, paired with Irena Kobald’s My Two Blankets, can offer readers who feel different and alone hope that things will get better, and may encourage others to help them on their way. The lengthy text paints a realistic picture of difficulties faced by a family striving to make a new start, and the positive resolution is quietly satisfying.
—School Library Journal
Watts presents an emotionally credible account of what life can be like for newcomers to a place and sensitively portrays Hee Jun’s experiences...Yum’s tidy watercolor illustrations feature her usual rosy-cheeked figures, and the art skill- fully conveys emotion, increasing the amount of background detail and using an ever-livelier palette as Hee Jun gradually settles into American life. Use possibilities abound for this thoughtful and thought-provoking title.
—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
The soft colorful pictures connect beautifully to the emotions and relationships of the characters. This story is a great jumping-off point for discussions around tolerance, differences, and being the new kid in school.
—School Library Connection
Top customer reviews
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On one of the pages I was disappointed to see a rather sexist statement from one of the kids on the playground. The main character, holding a basketball, asks another child to play, and the child says ‘let’s throw it at the girls’ the main character says ‘sure.’ I’m disheartened to see words like these condoning mean spirited play put in a place of positivity in a book meant to teach acceptance. It’s in a moment of the book when the child is beginning to feel a small sense of belonging and getting used to things, and THATS his first friendly encounter? Yikes. I still gave it four stars because the message and illustrations are wonderful, not to mention it’s one of the few books that portrays struggles as an immigrant in such a moving and child friendly way. The problem is easily fixed with a pen and change of words to ‘let’s play with the girls’ or ‘let’s throw it to the girls.’
I loved the illustrations. The expressions on the characters' faces were so perfect and really told the story by themselves. My daughter and I studied everyone's face carefully on each page. The illustrations really added to the poignancy of the story.
I loved this book. Without being even slightly preachy it teaches the readers both empathy and kindness!
Watts tells the story of immigration with an eye towards giving people time to adjust and find their footing both with a new language and a new culture. The sense of loss for the characters is palpable on the page, eliciting a real understanding of the immense change they are undergoing. The little sister’s violent reaction to school is handled with sensitivity and understanding, offering the grandmother a chance to connect with her new surroundings. The entire book is filled with deep emotions combined with a gentle nurturing attitude.
Yum’s illustrations are done in watercolor. They show a loving family that manages to thrive despite the changes. The differences between their lives in Korea and West Virginia are shown on the page, particularly with regards to the grandmother and her vibrant life in Korea compared to her lonely existence in the first weeks in the United States.
A strong and thoughtful look at immigration that beautifully explains the huge changes children undergo as they move to a new country. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
When his father accepts a job in West Virginia, Hee Jun’s family moves from Korea to a strange new world where people speak and act differently. However, he soon begins to assimilate and feels increasingly comfortable in his new home.
Librarians will find this picture book to be an excellent addition to their growing collection of books focusing on immigration. Teachers will find the book to be useful in helping new immigrants as well as other children learn about the realities of living in an unfamiliar world.
Published by Candlewick on June 14, 2016. ARC courtesy of the publisher.
The language of the book is precise like that of the Koreans and the illustrations showing the Americanization of this country.
a #mustread book on culture, acceptance and bravery
Written by Jeri Watts, illustrated by Hyewon Yum and published by Candlewick Press.
#PB #culture #diversity
We have a lot of children who have recently immigrated from Asian countries in our community and I think this book will be very helpful.
Everyone should read this book!