I'm an Immigrant Too! by Mem Fox, illustrated by Ronojoy Ghosh
Review Copy from Simon & Schuster
First published in in Australia by native, literacy expert and excellent rhymer Mem Fox with the title, I'm Australian Too!, this book is specific to the country, but also universal. The Australian title is also the first line of this picture book that begins with the narrator listing the birthplace of parents and grandparents, saying, "Our mob's been here forever - now we share the place with you."
A change in narrators details the places families immigrated from and the reasons why, from famine to war, along with the challenges faced. Love of country of origin and love of new home country are evident in every expression from each narrator, as this stanza shows:
Lebanon is beautiful -
my family came from there.
The fled a war, but now they sing:
"Advance Australia Fair"!
Fox's text is straightforward and accessible, giving readers an understanding of the many places people immigrate from and their capacity for loving and being connected to two countries. Fox closes her book with those who are between two countries - refugees. To those who are seeking a new life, Fox assures readers that,
We open doors to strangers,
Yes, everyone's a friend.
Australia Fair is ours to share
where broken hearts can mend.
Ending her book on a hopeful note, one that I wish all of our country would someday embrace, Fox writes,
What journeys we have traveled,
from countries near and far!
Together now, we live in piece,
beneath the Southern Star.
Happily, the number of children's books about the immigrant experience in America, especially those set in our current climate, are growing. What I think is both important and special about this book is that it is the immigrant story of many, one that also lifts up love for a new country and that country's love for new inhabitants. In a time of increasing xenophobia, these words of compassion and welcoming are valuable and important.