Author: Junot Díaz
Publisher: Dial Books (Penguin)
Time taken to read: 1 day
Goodreads synopsis: Every kid in Lola’s school was from somewhere else. Hers was a school of faraway places. So when Lola’s teacher asks the students to draw a picture of where their families immigrated from, all the kids are excited. Except Lola. She can’t remember The Island—she left when she was just a baby. But with the help of her family and friends, and their memories—joyous, fantastical, heartbreaking, and frightening—Lola’s imagination takes her on an extraordinary journey back to The Island. As she draws closer to the heart of her family’s story, Lola comes to understand the truth of her abuela’s words: “Just because you don’t remember a place doesn’t mean it’s not in you.” Gloriously illustrated and lyrically written, Islandborn is a celebration of creativity, diversity, and our imagination’s boundless ability to connect us—to our families, to our past and to ourselves.
So, if you’ve been following my reviews for a while, you may know that last year I took a turn with my career path, and I’ve been assistant teaching in a preschool. I don’t think I’ve mentioned this yet, but I’m actually a lead teacher for my school’s summer camp for ages three and four. So I read two books with my students every day, and each week we have a different theme, so I try to coordinate the books I pick up from the library with the theme of the week. And this week was, of course, “happy birthday America” week. I really wanted to share books with my kids about the diversity of America, so along with HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: DREAMS TAKING FLIGHT by Kathleen Krull and I HAVE A DREAM by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I got ISLANDBORN by Junot Díaz. And I ended up deciding not to read it to my kids only because it’s a little long for my age group and I wasn’t sure if they’d be able to sit through it. But I still read it myself and I wanted to review it because I think it’s a really sweet book and because Junot Díaz is the favorite author of one of my best friends and this is the only book of his I’ve ever read (sorry Ceci).
So I’m knocking off a star only because I think it’s a little long for a picture book, but other than that I thought it was very beautiful. I just didn’t wholly understand what the “monster” was. I’m not a history person at all so this may be an absolutely ridiculous assumption, I have no idea, but my first thought was that perhaps it was referring to Fidel Castro and Cuba, but Díaz is from the Dominican Republic and Leo Espinosa, the illustrator, is from Colombia, so I don’t really know. I wish there had been something in the back of the book perhaps that explained what this book is really about, for the adults.
Other than that, I’m in huge support of children’s books (and all kinds of books) that emphasize minority populations, and the art of this book in particular was incredible. I started at the illustrations for a long time, just soaking in all of the beauty. So if you think you have a kid or group of kids that can sit for a while, I highly recommend this one, but if your kids have short attention spans like mine do, perhaps just pick this one up for yourself!