Used as a template for the immigrant experience in America, Patti Kim’s Here I Am tells the story of a boy’s frightening yet exciting trip to America. Not knowing what to expect and seeing people that are much different from you is all part of being in a land that is full of the unknown, where mystery hides behind every street corner. Holding on to the single thing that reminds him of home—a little red seed, he faces the daunting challenge of calling America his new home.
Surrounded by big flashy New York City lights that seem to cast a shadow over him and being overwhelmed by the new language on street signs, he gradually finds out that fear is only defeated when we are able to realize the beauty in letting go of what we have held on tightly for so long. When the only thing of his that reminds him of home ends up falling from his window and into the wrong hands, he is set out on a quest to get back his most treasured item. He soon discovers that things really aren’t what they seem—a leap of faith allows him to gain a better understanding of the place he no longer fears. He is ultimately rewarded with an opportunity to overcome the intimidation of being away from home.
His experience is told entirely in pictures. Readers follow his story hrough the vivid emotions expressed on the characters’ faces and through the powerful images of isolation and homesickness. This story retells the experiences of the immigrant through a positive lens without ever having to say a word. Kim and illustrator Sonia Sanchez provides us with an uneasy reality filled with moments that turn despair into hope, fear into joy, and mere strangers into long time friendships. With each picture revealing more and more of the boy‘s development and growth, it is not until the gathering of all these individual snippets of his transformation that helps readers of all backgrounds to gain a better understanding of the common issues that immigrant families are faced with.
Title: Here I Am
Illustrator: Sonia Sanchez
Publisher: Capstone Young Readers 2013
Age Suitability: 5-10 years
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