One Good Thing About America
March 21, 2017
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.
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
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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