CM . . .
. Volume XIV Number 12 . . . .February 8, 2008
Our New Home: Immigrant Children Speak.
Emily Hearn & Marywinn Milne, Eds.
Toronto, ON: Second Story Press, 2007.
129 pp., pbk., $13.95.
Immigrant children-Canada-Biography-Juvenile literature.
Children of minorities-Canada-Biography-Juvenile literature.
Canada-Emigration and immigration-Psychological aspects-Juvenile literature.
Grades 3-6 / Ages 8-11.
Review by Ellen Wu.
I began to go to school on March 29, after the March Break. I was in the grade 2 in Canada. I brought a small notebook which my mother had given me. The notebook says in English, "Please, take me to the washroom, I can't speak English, I feel sick, and etc." Many classmates talked to me during the first recess. I little understood, but I was glad. Sometimes I was sad, but my teacher, Ms. T., was always tender.
During lunch time, I returned home. I liked this time, because I spoke Japanese. It was very difficult to remember the names of the classmates. For example, I remembered "Moriyuki," but it was "Malik." But it seemed very easy for my classmates to remember my name "Ai." So, I repeatedly introduced myself in English, "My name is Ai."
Ai's first day at school in Canada is representative of many of the other children's experiences found in this new anthology compiled by Emily Hearn and Marywinn Milne. Intended for classroom use, this collection of immigrant children's stories, drawings, and songs imparts the anxiety and excitement of young children as they recall the upheaval and adjustment that comes with moving to a new country. With entries that range from short summaries of a child's overall impression of Canada to longer narratives, Our New Home provides both a window for learning about immigrant children's lives to students born in Canada and a mirror for other immigrant children to help them realize they are not alone in their experiences.
The anthology begins with a world map marking the countries from which the children immigrated, and the book is divided into five sections: Leaving, Differences, Adjusting, Problems, and Feelings. While some entries are general enough in scope to belong to more than one section (feeling scared about leaving home, surprised by the coldness of Canada's winters), most of them pertain to the specific challenges and unexpected surprises that these children face. Each section begins with a page listing the authors of the excerpts that follow, with their home country in an adjacent column, and ends with black-and-white pictures drawn by the children.
Generous margins and large text size make reading this book simple and welcoming for students. The collection includes harrowing stories of escape from oppressive regimes, or the frustration at having no choice in moving to a new country, and the universally nerve-wracking experience of adjusting to a new school, new language, a colder climate, and new friends. The editors have also chosen to retain the hiccups in spelling, grammar, and idiomatic expressions of the young writers, respecting the considerable progress each child has made in her/his ability to communicate n a second language.
Finally, the range in writing styles varies from general statements listing a child's 'before-and-after' observations of immigrating to longer compositions complete with dramatization of events in the classroom and family life. These children write with perceptiveness, candor, and humour, as they in accept the fact that they have indeed found their way home, a home that includes their new Canadian identity as well as the heritage of their birth countries.
Nineteen middle schools in Ontario participated in this anthology, compiled by retired educator Marywinn Milne and Emily Hearn, a children's author and writer for the CBC and the National Film Board. Their ability to galvanize other dedicated teachers and students to join in this writing effort has produced a highly readable book that would no doubt be indispensable in opening up dialogue about the immigration experience in classrooms and school libraries.
Ellen Wu is a student in the Master of Arts in Children's Literature program at Hollins University, in Roanoke, VA.
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