The thoughtful, nameless narrator empathetically wonders how she can help her new classmate Saida who arrived with tears and silence, having “lost all her words.” Immediately knowing they have a strong bond of friendship, she searches all around to help find Saida’s words, hoping to “untie her laughter, and her voice.” Displaying her youthful knowledge, she looks for Saida’s words anywhere she can—like under park benches and in the hollows of trees—until her parents wisely share where Saida is from (Morocco) and explain the language difference (Arabic). With this new understanding, the two girls grow in friendship while teaching each other the words of their homelands, hoping to visit Morocco together someday. Wimmer’s inventive illustrations take center stage and magnify the story’s important message of friendship, diversity, and empathy. Paired with poetic and thought-provoking narration, Saida’s emotional experience of immigration is marvelously shared in a child-friendly way that lays a foundation for family discussion. Young readers may have a harder time engaging with the longer text, though the beautiful example of empathetically welcoming diversity, the interesting and educative inclusion of Arabic, and the captivating illustrations are sure to impress. The final page ends the book on the perfect note, mirroring the reader’s experience, with the English translation of Saida’s name: Happy.
The “Inventive” badge is awarded to books that offer exceptionally original illustrations.
Wow—this book is powerful, beautiful, and meaningful. The illustrations are fantastic and unique, and the text matches and tells the story of two friends—one a new girl who implicitly immigrated from Morocco and the other an understanding, welcoming girl with the desire to help her new friend in her transition. The text is lyrical and slightly abstract, engaging enough for any adult to enjoy, yet children will also glean the basics. Some of the typography is a little tricky (but fun).
Sonja Wimmer is a renowned international illustrator whose books are bestsellers in Europe. In the United States, she has received the Independent Publisher Book Award and was two times the winner of the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards and two times the winner of the International Latino Book Award.
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