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Sumi's First Day of School Ever Hardcover – July 28, 2003
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From School Library Journal
Kindergarten-Grade 3-Sumi is starting school in America, and is worried because she cannot speak English. When the Korean child enters her classroom for the first time, she thinks, "School is a scary place." Later, when a boy sticks out his tongue and squishes his eyes into slants, Sumi thinks, "School is a mean place." After the teacher talks to him, he says something that Sumi doesn't understand, but she realizes that it is something nice. "Maybe school is not so mean, Sumi thought." After the teacher gives her paper to draw on, and later hangs it up for the other children to see, Sumi decides, "Maybe school is not so scary." Finally, during recess, another little girl asks Sumi her name. "Maybe school is not so lonely, Sumi thought." Pak's text is spare yet rich enough in tone and language to get across the alienation, fear, and loneliness that the child initially faces. The illustrator's choice of oil crayons allows the drawings to have soft edges, thus complementing the harshness of the emotions that the youngster originally feels. Pair this fine title with Helen Recorvits's My Name Is Yoon (Farrar, 2003) for an insightful look into the thoughts and feelings of young immigrants.
Lisa Gangemi Kropp, Middle Country Public Library, Centereach, NY
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
PreS-Gr. 1. Sumi, a Korean American child, is lonely and afraid when she starts school, but with the help of a kind teacher and a friendly classmate, she comes to realize that school may be "not-so-lonely, not-so-scary, not-so-mean." Simple words and clear, brightly colored expressive pictures stay true to the small child's perspective, showing close up her confusion and hurt. When Sumi first enters the classroom, she's shown outside the group; but when she gets to know a girl in the schoolyard, their arms are parallel as they draw pictures in the dirt. As in Recorvits' My Name Is Yoon [BKL Mr 15 03], the honesty will touch kids. Pak acknowledges the meanness (one boy "stuck out his tongue . . . squished his eyes"), and even non-immigrant newcomers to school will recognize the feeling of dislocation and the language and gestures that seem to make no sense. Hazel Rochman
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