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Islandborn

by Junot Diaz

School Library Journal K-Gr 3-When Ms. Obi asks her students to draw a picture of the country they are originally from, the children are excited. All except for Lola, "What if you left before you could start remembering?" As Lola talks to some of her neighbors from the Island to draw from their memories, she learns of bats as big as blankets; a love of music and dancing; coconut water and sweet mangoes. And an island where "Even the people are like a rainbow-every shade ever made." With a place so beautiful, Lola wonders, why did people leave? Reluctantly, Mr. Mir, the building superintendent, tells her of a Monster that fell upon their Island and did as he pleased for 30 years. Though never mentioned by name, the country in question is the Dominican Republic. The Monster refers to the dictator Rafael Leónidas Trujillo. Lola learns from her assignment that "Just because you don't remember a place doesn't mean it's not in you." Espinosa's gloriously vibrant mixed-media illustrations portray a thriving community living under the shadow of the George Washington Bridge in Manhattan. As Lola learns more about her Island, the illustrations cleverly incorporate a plethora of tropical plants and color, bringing to life both Lola's neighborhood and La Isla. Lola, a Spanish language edition, is ably translated by Mlawer and publishes simultaneously. VERDICT A sensitive and beautiful story of culture, identity, and belonging-a superb picture book outing for Díaz and one to be shared broadly in a variety of settings.-Lucia Acosta, Children's Literature Specialist, Princeton, NJ © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly From its very first sentence, this first picture book from Díaz (The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao) is both beautifully nuanced and instantly comprehensible: "Every kid in Lola's school was from somewhere else." Lola is from a place that she calls the Island, which adult readers will recognize as the author's native Dominican Republic, but she left as a baby. When her teacher asks everyone to draw a picture of "the country you were originally from, your first country," Lola, who doesn't remember the Island herself, embarks on a quest through her tight-knit city neighborhood to collect memories. Many recall the Island with fondness: nonstop music, mangoes so sweet "they make you want to cry," colors of every kind. "Even the people are like a rainbow," says one. But Lola also hears stories of fear, hardship, and sadness; the super in her building recalls a reign of terror by what he calls "the Monster" (dictator Rafael Trujillo) and the courage it took to resist. As the story moves between past and present, the Island and "the North," and the microworlds of classroom, streets, and home, the sweep of experience and emotion becomes unmistakably novelistic. Reminiscence, reality, and Lola's imagination similarly merge in Espinosa's effervescent, mural-like drawings (which eventually become the work Lola presents to her class): bats soar through the air on blanket wings, and a barbershop customer tears up while clutching a translucent mango. With his tenacious, curious heroine and a voice that's chatty, passionate, wise, and loving, Díaz entices readers to think about a fundamental human question: what does it mean to belong? Lola realizes it means both being cherished by those around her and taking ownership of their collective memory. "Even if I'd never set foot on the Island," she tells the class, "it doesn't matter: The Island is me." Ages 5-8. Agent: Nicole Aragi, Aragi Inc. (Mar.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Book list *Starred Review* Lola attends a school in which the majority of students, whose skin tones range from tan to deep brown, are from somewhere else. When the teacher instructs her class to draw a picture of what each child's original country looks like, the young girl is stymied. She was an infant when her family immigrated to the U.S. and has no memories of her birthplace. As Lola and her cousin walk home through their neighborhood, they discover that almost everyone is happy to share their memories of the Island. The beaches, the music, the fruits, and the colors come alive for the youngster and create a feeling of pride in her heritage. Along with all the happy memories are remembrances of struggles after a hurricane and a defeated monster, which adults may recognize as a former dictator. The exuberant, brightly colored illustrations are filled with a child's interpretation of the memories and fill the double-page spreads with details to pore over. This important title will be enjoyed by young children and may spark many significant discussions.--Owen, Maryann Copyright 2018 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

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