Here I Am by Patti Kim, illustrated by Sonia Sánchez

Here I am, is an almost wordless picture book about an Asian boy who moves to America with his family. The young boy stumbles his way through the urban environment of loud noises, busy streets, tall buildings, illegible signs, and foreign words, trying to make sense of the world around him.

The layout of the images takes on the form of a graphic novel. In places the illustrations are pasted over tube maps and street signs, giving us a sense of the boy’s bewilderment and uncertainty of his new surroundings.

The body language of the character portrays sadness; emoting feelings of empathy in the reader.

At the beginning of the story, the family navigate their way through the hustle and bustle of the city’s airport and through the crowded city streets, to their new home in an apartment building. The boy starts school. Not understanding the children or his teachers isolates him. The mastery of the illustrations depict his loneliness with great skill. You’ve been warned, this picture book will tug at those heart strings.

The story develops, taking us on his journey of adventure and discovery as he explores his new surroundings and immerses himself in the culture.

Themes of friendship, new beginnings, empathy, and loneliness make this a fantastic teaching resource, for circle time discussions or a unit of literacy.

I teach in a school with a high percentage of children with English as an additional language; this book would be a great way to show understanding and empathy for their new, daunting yet exciting life in a new country.

A new favourite of mine! Highly recommended.

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