One Good Thing About America

One Good Thing About America
Co-Authors / Illustrators
Age Range
Release Date
March 21, 2017
Buy This Book
It’s hard to start at a new school . . . especially if you’re in a new country. Back home, Anais was the best English student in her class. Here in Crazy America she feels like she doesn’t know English at all. Nothing makes sense (chicken FINGERS?), and the kids at school have some very strange ideas about Africa. Anais misses her family—Papa and grandmother Oma and big brother Olivier—because here in Crazy America there’s only little Jean-Claude and Mama. So she writes letters to Oma—lots of them. She tells her she misses her and hopes the war is over soon. She tells her about Halloween, snow, mac ’n’ cheese dinners and princess sleepovers. She tells her about the weird things Crazy Americans do, and how she just might be turning into a Crazy American herself. One Good Thing About America is a sweet, often funny middle-grade novel that explores differences and common ground across cultures.

Editor review

1 review
An interesting walk in someone else's shoes
Overall rating
Plot/Characters/Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
Anais and her mother and brother Jean-Claud have moved to the United States from Congo, leaving behind her father, Oma, and older brother Olivier. She is living in a room in a shelter, and trying her best to survive at school. She misses being in Africa, where it is warmer and sunnier than it is in Maine, but her teacher tells her to think of one good thing about America every day. Some days it is easier than others. Anais is worried about her father, who is being watched by the police, and doesn't understand why it is so hard for her mother to be granted asylum and for her father and brother to come to America. She makes some friends at school, enjoys her classes, and learns many of the crazy customs and practices of America.
Good Points
I very much appreciated that the author based this book on her work with students during her internship in ELL classes. She also says that she can't know exactly what it is like for her students who are new to this country, but that until they can write their own stories, she hopes this book will fill a need. I agree. We have a fair amount of ELL students in my building, and Anais' voice was very similar to one of my students in particular. I, too, would like to buy books written by #ownvoices authors, but until more are available, I think that authors who have experience working with children in these situations are a good resource for my students to understand what it must be like.

Because of Anais' struggles with language, the earlier chapters have a lot of dialect and misspellings, which may help readers understand what it is like for some of their fellow students for whom English is not a native language. They may also be interested in the current political situation in Africa and learn more about current news topics to support their knowledge.

There are a wider variety of multicultural books available now than there were just three years ago, and these books cover a range of immigrant experience, from children who have just arrived in the US to children in second or third generations who still embrace their culture. One Good Thing About America is a good addition to a list of books that include Khan's Amina's Voice, Senzai's Saving Kabul Corner, Sheth's Blue Jasmine, and Behar's Lucky Broken Girl.
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