Today’s review is for Here I Am, story by Patti Kim, illustrations by Sonia Sanchez, published by Capstone Young Readers. I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
Here I Am is a wordless book that tells the story of a young boy immigrating to the United States from Asia. The boy is overwhelmed by the new city at first; there are so many strange sights and sounds. He becomes sullen and reserved and spends most of his time staring out at the world from his apartment window. The only thing that brings him hope and joy is a seed that he brought over with him. Then, one day, while he is looking out the window, the boy drops the seed and a little girl picks it up. As a result, the boy ventures out into the city on his own to reclaim the seed. On the way he discovers that his new home is lively and full of great sights, sounds, and people.
To write this story, author Patti Kim drew upon her own experiences of being a child immigrant from Korea. This story isn’t autobiographical, but it she’s still able to call upon the personal to create a strong emotional response. Often in wordless books, we forget to credit the person who wrote the story, since in the end we only see the illustrations. However, it’s important to give credit where credit is due–in this case to Kim who created a story that would be powerful in any medium.
Which is not to say that the art of Sonia Sanchez didn’t elevate the work. To the contrary, it was Sanchez’s ability to capture complex emotions in her art that drew me into the story and kept me engaged. The way that she clusters multiple frames on the page creates such a great sense of mood. It’s a technique I haven’t seen used much, but it’s highly effective. Another touch that is nice is how signs appear to be in jibberish, but as the boy grows more familiar with his new country, they begin to most closely resemble English. Finally, I enjoyed the use of color. Early in the story, most of the colors are in the red and yellow range. But, once the boy ventures out and starts to engage with the world, a lot more greens and blues enter the page. It gives a real sense of the world opening up to him.
This book earns 4 out of 5 stars. It was emotionally resonate and provides a great resource for talking with children about immigrant experiences. My only real issue with the whole thing was that initially, I couldn’t decipher that the seed was a seed. Otherwise, I like that the book addresses the emotional side of immigration, and shows that just because someone is closed off, it doesn’t mean that they are not interested in friends.
You can find more information about this book, including other reviews, at Goodreads.