Tuesday, October 9, 2018

ISLANDBORN by Junot Diaz

- A School Of Faraway Places -

Lola is a bit concerned when her diverse classmates are given an interesting assignment by Ms. Obi, their teacher.

“Please draw a picture of the country you are originally from, your first country, and bring it in tomorrow.”

Most of her classmates are thrilled. Some will include pyramids, others a canal or even a mongoose. But Lola, who doesn’t like raising her hand, is forced to raise her hand and admit to her teacher that she can’t remember anything about where she’s from since she was too little.

“No problema,” Ms. Obi said. “Are there people around you who do remember?”

Lola's whole neighborhood does remember the place Lola is from, so she informs her teacher that she will talk to everyone who might be able to help with the assignment. The teacher changes the assignment just for Lola since her circumstances are a little different. She is to draw pictures of what her neighbors and relatives can remember about the island.

Lola talks to her cousin, Leticia. She remembers only a little since she was young also. She tells her cousin that the bats were huge!

As Lola goes through her neighborhood she gets pieces of what her island was like from several people. The island had mangoes, people who loved bright colors, music, dancing, beaches, and more.
When Lola talks to Mr. Mir she is told that:

“A monster fell upon our poor Island. It was the most dreadful monster anyone had ever seen. The whole Island was terrified and no one could defeat it. It was just too strong.”

Lola’s curly hair seemed to be uncurling as she listened with fear about the monster that everyone was afraid of. But Mr. Mir lets her know that heroes rose up, fought, and finally banished it forever. He has a worn map of the island on the wall. (Though nothing is labeled adults will see it is a map of the Dominican Republic.)

Will Lola learn enough to take part in the class project?

My Thoughts

What Concerned Me: I had a few concerns. First, it may not be important to children, but it was a bit to me, Lola never asks anyone the name of the island. Second, since children can take things so literally, I’m wondering why it was necessary to substitute a monster for a cruel man. Just the term monster could worry some children. And third, the word count is quite long for a picture book.

What I liked Most: I like the fact that it points out that our ancestors and traditions are part of who we are, even if we don't remember the place we are from.

This is a sweet story that should cause us all to think about our ancestors and the places they might have come from. It is a great prelude to discussions and even writing assignments.

Author: Junot Diaz
Illustrator: Leo Espinosa
Publisher:  Dial Books for Young Readers (March 2018)

  • Approx. Word Count: 2017
  • Ages: 5 - 8  (per publisher)
  • Pages: 48
YouTube Book -  Introduced by Junot Diaz
CBS This Morning With Junot Diaz

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