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Islandborn by Junot Díaz, illustrated by Leo Espinosa

Islandborn is the debut picture book written by Junot Díaz and marvelously illustrated by Leo Espinosa. Born in the Dominican Republic, Díaz is the Pulitzer prize winning author of books for adults. With his first children's book, he explores what it means to have two home countries, even when you can't remember your first home. Working in a school where the majority of my students have a first home and family they return to visit yearly, I am so excited to have a picture book that starts this conversation for us.

Everyone in Lola's school seems to have come from somewhere else and Lola and her classmates have been given the assignment to draw pictures of their first homes. But Lola can't remember her first home. Fortunately, she has family and neighbors who do remember and they help paint a picture for her of the island where she was born. Díaz does a superb job explaining the difficult reasons why Lola's family, and many others, left the unnamed island for America, replacing a dictator with a metaphorical monster that the brave people fought against and defeated. Espinosa does an equally wonderful job illustrating these challenging themes, but the smiles and buoyant joy of the characters practically jump off the page.
While the experience of my students is somewhat different than Lola's, after reading Islandborn to several different grades, we had great conversations about their visits to Mexico to see family, from the food to the sounds and colors, inspiring them to create these drawings that are now our windows to another world!

Source: Review Copy


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