I’m New Here

9781580896122_p0_v2_s260x420I’m New Here 
By Anne Sibley O’Brien
Published by Charlesbridge Publishing

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“Whether readers are new themselves or meeting those who are new, there are lessons to be learned here about perseverance, bravery, and inclusion, and O’Brien’s lessons are heartfelt and poetically rendered.”  
Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

Maria is from Guatemala, Jin is from Korea, and Fatima is from Somalia. All three are new to their American elementary school, and each has trouble speaking, writing, and sharing ideas in English. Through self-determination and with encouragement from their peers and teachers, the students learn to feel confident and comfortable in their new school without losing a sense of their home country, language, and identity.

Young readers from all backgrounds will appreciate this touching story about the assimilation of three immigrant students in a supportive school community.

Anne Sibley O’Brien is one of the founders of I’m Your Neighbor, an organization that promotes children’s literature featuring “new arrival” cultures. As the rate of immigration to the United States increases, topics related to immigration are increasingly more important in the classroom and home. I’m New Here demonstrates how our global community can work together and build a home for all.

Reviews & Accolades
“Readers walk in the shoes of three students struggling after immigrating to the United States.
Readers meet Maria, from Guatemala, Jin, a South Korean boy, and Fatimah, a Somali girl who wears the hijab. O’Brien fosters empathy by portraying only one challenge each must overcome rather than overwhelming readers with many. Maria struggles with the language. Though back home, “Our voices flowed like water and flew between us like birds,” the sounds of English elude her. Clever, phonetically spelled dialogue balloons bring home to readers how foreign English sounds to Maria. For Jin, writing is the trouble; the scribbles of American letters close the door to the wonderful world of stories. Fatimah’s challenge is abstract: she cannot find her place in this new classroom. Gradually, each child begins to bridge the gap—soccer, stories and shared words, artwork—and feel like part of a community. O’Brien’s watercolor-and-digital illustrations masterfully use perspective, white space, and the contrast between the children “back home” and in their new settings to highlight the transition from outsider to friend. Other diverse students fill the classrooms, including a child in a wheelchair. An author’s note tells O’Brien’s own immigrant story, how difficult the transition is, the reasons families might emigrate, and how readers might help.

Whether readers are new themselves or meeting those who are new, there are lessons to be learned here about perseverance, bravery, and inclusion, and O’Brien’s lessons are heartfelt and poetically rendered.”
Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

“This well-conceived, thoughtful picture book traces the first day at a new school for three children with very different experiences of adjusting, linguistically and culturally.”  —Shelf Awareness

“The simplicity of the narrative combined with vibrant watercolor artwork depicting a wide range of diversity results in a powerful message of empathy for the immigrant experience.”  —Booklist

I'M NEW HERE Illustration © Anne Sibley O'Brien

I’M NEW HERE Illustration © Anne Sibley O’Brien

Groups Represented
Guatemalan American
Korean American
Somali American

Art Therapy
Cultural Differences
Education & Literacy
Learning English
Multicultural or Cross Group Friendship

United States

Author’s Cultural Research
I’m New Here grew in my mind over many years of considering recently-arrived, culturally diverse students, as I interacted with them while creating books, speaking in schools, and evaluating available resources. Though there are many wonderful books featuring individual child immigrants, it seemed to me that in the big picture something was missing. Somehow the emphasis was on what immigrant children needed to acquire, as if they arrived as blank slates, needing to be filled. I wanted to focus on the strengths these children already had, leading rich and complex lives in their home countries, where they know how to fully communicate and participate. Immigration, however it happens, means losses, and it means starting over, having to learn everything all over again.

I had the help of many people throughout the process, including ELL and classroom teachers, language and cultural experts, and young students themselves. I read research papers about adjustment issues for immigrant children, and many books by and about immigrants.
I also drew from my own experience of my family’s move from the U.S. to South Korea when I was seven, the same age as the children in this book. I didn’t have to learn a new language or culture for school, but I did form a new identity as I became bilingual, bicultural, and at home in a new country. —Anne Sibley O’Brien

Engagement Projects
View & Download 
I’m New Here: Creating Conversation About Welcoming Immigrants & Refugees: A Classroom or Community Event Kit

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