Who Belongs Here?: An American Story

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Product Details

$9.94  $9.24
Tilbury House Publishers
Publish Date
10.9 X 8.4 X 0.2 inches | 0.5 pounds

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About the Author

MARGY BURNS KNIGHT received the National Education Association's Author-Illustrator Human & Civil Rights Award for her work with Anne Sibley O'Brien and the Children's Africana Book Award for Africa Is Not a Country. She is the author of Talking Walls, which has sold more than 200,000 copies. She writes a blog, "Discover Your World," and is a Service Learning Coordinator, an English teacher, and a Peace Corps veteran.
ANNE SIBLEY O'BRIEN has illustrated 31 books, including Talking Walls, and is the author and illustrator of the picture book I'm New Here and the graphic novel The Legend of Hong Kil Dong. Annie's passion for multiracial, multicultural, and global subjects grew out of her experience of being raised bilingual and bicultural in South Korea as the daughter of medical missionaries. She writes the column "The Illustrator's Perspective" for the Bulletin of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators and a blog, "Coloring Between the Lines." The mother of two grown children, she lives with her husband on an island in Maine.


Following their well-received Talking Walls, Knight and O'Brien again team up for an affectionate if didactic exploration of connections among people world-wide. This time the message is filtered through the experience of Nary, a Cambodian refugee who immigrates to the U.S. with his grandmother after the death of both parents. Hostility toward immigrants and the impetus to work for change are explored. The central question, "What if everyone . . . whose ancestors came from another country was forced to return to his or her homeland? . . . Who would be left?" signals the book's design as a vehicle for discussion. The text itself pairs Nary's story with italicized information on immigration to the U.S. This strategy is only intermittently effective; younger readers may not be capable of making the conceptual jumps both Knight and O'Brien require, while older readers may chafe at the picture-book format. These limitations notwithstanding, the volume provides strong starting points for ongoing explorations of multicultural themes. Ages 7-13.
Grade 3-5-Drawing on her experience as an ESL teacher, Knight introduces the fictional character Nary, a 10-year-old boy from Cambodia. Accompanying his story of leaving his homeland and settling in this country is a parallel text, set in italics, that expands some of the ideas presented. Sometimes it provides background information on U.S. immigration or history; at other times it serves to stimulate discussion, particularly on such topics as intolerance and prejudice. Notes in the back give additional material on individuals (Pol Pot, Dith Pran, Dolores Huerta) and concepts introduced earlier. Three-quarters of each double-page spread is covered with brightly colored, impressionistic pastel illustrations. Unfortunately, the texts do not blend well. Nary's story is choppy; the italicized portions are often superficial and not always relevant. For information strictly on Cambodian immigrants, consult Nancy Graff's Where the River Runs (Little, 1993).Diane S. Marton, Arlington County Library, VA Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.--Diane S. Marton, Arlington County Library, VA
Gr. 4-7. After escaping the killing fields of Cambodia and living in a refugee camp in Thailand, 10-year-old Nary (a composite character drawn from students that Knight has known as an ESL teacher) is now adjusting to his new home in the U.S. The amount of food in the grocery stores amazes him, and he likes eating pizza and ice cream. But sometimes his classmates are mean to him, calling him names and telling him to "get back on the boat and go home where you belong." In counterpoint to Nary's story, Knight includes information about other refugees and their contributions to the U.S. and challenges readers to confront difficult questions about immigration, racism, and multiculturalism: "What if everyone who now lives in the U.S., but whose ancestors came from another country, was forced to return to his or her homeland?" This book is similar to the author and illustrator's other collaborative effort, Talking Walls (1992), in that Knight's text compassionately explores the complex issues and O'Brien's full-color pastel illustrations personalize the experiences of Nary and other new Americans. An attractive and telling picture book that provokes a dynamic dialogue about one of the most fundamental questions before our country. Annie Ayers--Annie Ayers