Category Archives: middle grade books that reflect the immigrant experience in the US

Katerina’s Wish by Jeannie Mobley

Up next in my series on middle grade books that reflect the immigrant experience in the US is a middle grade historical fiction debut from author Jeannie Mobley. I read the advanced reader’s copy this summer and adored Katerina (“Trina” to her friends and family). The book has just been released in stores,  and has already received two starred reviews from Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly.

Today I’m thrilled to have author Jeannie Mobley here to talk about ways that Katerina’s Wish can be used in classrooms and libraries to connect with students and the curriculum.

From the author’s website: Katerina’s Wish tells the story of a Bohemian family who comes to America in 1900, hoping to work a year in the coal mines of southern Colorado and then buy a farm. After a year, they discover they have no more money than they came with, and much less hope. Then young Trina sees a strange fish and remembers the folk story of a carp that grants wishes. When her sisters make wishes that come true, Trina makes the biggest wish she can, for a farm in America. But is a wish enough to fill a dream so big?

Biblio Links:  Welcome, Jeannie, and congratulations on the release of Katerina’s Wish!

A student walks into my library and I think, That kid needs a copy of Katerina’s Wish. Who is this child?

Jeannie MobleyIt’s funny, but I never really thought of my book as one that a kid
would “need.” I don’t think of my book as one that will help a child cope with their current problems or understand their own confusing life circumstances. But I do think there are many kids who will enjoy my book, and who will find in it food for thought about what really makes
dreams come true.

I would wish my book into the hands of kids who love historical fiction and daydream about living in the past.  In weaving fairy-tale elements into my book, I created a tone that I hope appeals to kids who are still holding onto the idealism of their childhood, even as they approach the pressures of contemporary teenage life, and I want them to feel comfortable and safe in holding on to that optimism of youth. I hope also that my book will encourage kids to feel empowered–to know that by holding on to their dreams and working toward them, they can make their own lives better. I think that’s true of all kids, whether they have
advantages in life or not. But I think my book will appeal most to the quiet kids who have big dreams, but maybe fly beneath the radar of the peer pressure-driven measures of success that so often fill kids’ lives in their formative years. Then again, maybe I think that because that is the kind of kid I was, and I would have liked this book. 🙂

Biblio Links: The Middle Grade me would have loved this book, too! 

If we were to peek into a classroom where a teacher is using your book in a lesson or with a small group, what might we see?

Jeannie MobleyI think you might see many things. Historical fiction has the potential to teach many different lessons in the classroom. For one thing, we, as
a society, keep coming back to many of the same issues repeatedly in our history–things like immigration, racism, labor movements, stereotypes of other ethnicity or nationalities. Sometimes, it is easier to talk about these issues by viewing them in a different, less politically or socially charged context. KATERINA’S WISH is set in 1901, but deals with many of these issues that contemporary people deal with, and I hope could start some of these conversations that have relevance both in understanding our history and understanding the situations we face today. I think the book could also be used as a tie in to history lessons, math (there is a lot of discussion of prices for goods throughout the story), and in creating an interest for students in their own family histories. After all, we here in America, are largely a nation of immigrants.

Whatever the lesson, I would hope you would see students excited to learn about the past and inspired to talk about the social issues that are so ingrained in the American experience.

Biblio Links: Where can teachers, librarians and students learn more about you and your book?

Jeannie MobelyMy website (www.jeanniemobley.com) would be a great place to start. I’ve got an FAQ there that tells a little about the book and why I wrote it, but I always welcome other questions from teachers and readers through the email contact there. I also have some ideas to inspire writing, and a detailed teachers’ guide to KATERINA’S WISH that includes discussion questions and activities across the curriculum. But of course, the best way to learn more about my book, is to read it for yourself!

Biblio Links: Thanks for stopping by, Jeannie!

The Nitty Gritty~

Click here for reviews.

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books, A Division of Simon and Schuster

Publication Date: August 28, 2012

ISBN:  978-1442433434

Number of Pages: 256

Interest Level:  Ages 8 and up

Thanks to Teach Mentor Texts for hosting today’s What Are You Reading?

Thanks to Shannon Messenger for hosting Marvelous Middle Grade Monday!

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Shooting Kabul by N.H. Senzai

This is the next book up in my series on middle grade books that reflect the immigrant experience in the US.

When Fadi’s family flees from the Taliban in Afghanistan, his 6-year-old sister, Mariam, is accidentally left behind. As Fadi and his family try to adjust to life in San Francisco, Mariam is never far from their thoughts. At school, Fadi enters a photography contest, hoping to win the grand prize—a National Geographic photography trip to India. If he wins, Fadi plans to slip over the border into Afghanistan to find his sister. But after the events of 9/11, Fadi’s Pashtun family is fearful in their new home, and fearful that they’ll never be able to get Mariam out of Afghanistan.

Many of my students’ parents who were doctors or engineers in their home countries have to take jobs in the US where they aren’t able to utilize their training and talents. The only job that Fadi’s educated father can get in the US is a taxi driver, and his older sister works at McDonalds as the family struggles day-to-day. I know that many of my students will connect with Fadi and his family’s struggles.

Hand this book to the kid:

* who recently emigrated to the US

* who had to leave family behind in the home country

* whose parents struggle with a career change in the US

* who is going through culture shock

* who is learning English

* who is interested in photography

* who has experienced bullying

* who has immigrated to the U.S. and into your heart

Use this to teach:

Empathy–While Fadi and his community endure acts of hate after the events of 9/11, this story introduces readers to the innocent victims of racial profiling.

* Photography--Middle School Art teachers, this is your book! Fadi’s saving grace at school is the photography club, and there are several details about what makes a good photo–composition, lighting, subject, etc.

*World Events–The story provides a straightforward explanation of the rise and fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan, and the fear and hope that Afghanis experienced with the US invasion of their country.

Curriculum Guide here.

The Nitty Gritty~

Click here for reviews.

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Publication Date: 2010

ISBN:  978-1-4424-0194-5

Number of Pages: 272

Reading Level: 5.4

Interest Level:  ages 8 and up

Thanks to Teach Mentor Texts for hosting today’s What Are You Reading?

Thanks to Shannon Messenger for hosting Marvelous Middle Grade Monday!

Lowji Discovers America by Candace Fleming

Hard Cover

Paperback

This is the next book up in my series of reviews of middle grade books that reflect the immigrant experience.

When Lowji and his parents move to America from India one summer, Lowji finds himself without friends and with nothing to do. He’s always dreamed of having a pet, but the no-nonsense landlady, Mrs. Crisp, does not allow pets in her building. But Lowji doesn’t give up, and finally convinces the hard-working Mrs. Crisp that she needs a mouse-catching cat, a friendly guard dog, and a lawn-trimming goat. In the end, Lowji befriends a girl in his neighborhood who helps him take care of Mrs. Crisp’s newly-acquired menagerie.

While many immigrant families struggle economically after settling in the US, this story offers a refreshing reminder that not all newly arrived families struggle financially. Lowji’s mother has a high-tech job, and his father does the cooking at home.

With its sparse text and humor, Lowji Discovers America makes a good read-aloud and is recommended for kids who are moving into chapter books.

Hand this book to the kid:

* Who recently emigrated to the US

* Who is beginning to read chapter books

* Who loves animals

* Who is going through culture shock

* Who is learning English

* Who needs to know that there’s a “silver lining” to some obstacles in life

* Who has immigrated to the U.S. and into your heart

Use this to teach:

Empathy–Immigrant children will certainly identify with Lowji, and for children who have never been the “new kid” at school, readers will empathize with Lowji’s bewilderment as he’s introduced to American culture and slang.

* Letter Writing--Lowji’s letters to his best friend back in India are sprinkled throughout the text.

*Voice and Humor–Although Lowji learned English in school back in India, his voice is distinct and reflects the cadence and grammatical patterns of a second language learner. His voice would also make a good study in humor for student writers.

Curriculum Guide here.

The Nitty Gritty~

Click here for reviews.

Publisher: Aladdin

Publication Date: 2005 (paperback version 2008)

ISBN: 978-1-416-95832-1 (paperback) 978-0-689-862991 (hard cover)

Number of Pages: 160

Reading Level: 3.1

Interest Level:  ages 7-10

Drita, My Homegirl by Jenny Lombard

Summary (from the author’s website: http://dritamyhomegirl.com):

Drita and her family come to New York as refugees from war-torn Kosovo. Even though she barely speaks English, Drita can’t wait to start school and make a new best friend. But her new classmates don’t make it easy, teasing her about virtually everything. The worst is Maxie, a tough African-American girl whose sassy attitude hides a painful secret.

When Maxie takes things too far, their teacher assigns Maxie a paper on Drita and her journey to America from Kosovo. Suddenly, Maxie realizes she and Drita have more in common than she thought. And when Drita’s mother gets sick, there’s only one person who can help—Drita’s new homegirl.

A sensitively written story of two worlds coming together, Drita, My Homegirl touchingly explores the effects of war on a family and how friendship sometimes appears in the unlikeliest places.

Click here for  reviews.

Hand this book to the kid:

* With a divorced or widowed parent

* With a newly-minted or soon-to-be stepparent

* Who has a loved one suffering from depression

* Who is going through culture shock

* Is learning English for the first time

* Who has immigrated to the U.S. and into your heart

Use this to teach:

* Dual Point of View–The narration alternates between fourth graders Drita, a recently-arrived Muslim refugee from Kosovo, and Maxie, a popular and precocious African-American girl dealing with the death of her mother and her  father’s new girlfriend. Both voices are distinct and equally empathetic in their own unique ways.

* Immigration--This book would add contemporary relevancy to any unit on immigration, past or present.

*Friendship–For any school counselors out there who run friendship groups, and/or work at schools with high immigrant populations or high student mobility rates

Curriculum Guide here.

The Nitty Gritty~

Publisher: G.P. Putman’s Sons (Penguin)

Publication Date: 2006

ISBN: 0399243801

Number of Pages: 176

Reading Level: 3.9

Interest Level: Middle Grade (ages 8 and up)