Review Blog

Jan 08 2019

Island born by Junot Diaz

cover image

Ill. by Leo Espinosa. Oneworld, 2018. ISBN 9781786074775
(Age: 7-9) Recommended. Themes: Culture. Identity. Lola lives in an ethnically diverse community and the teacher's instruction to draw a picture of her 'first home' causes problems for her because she cannot remember! Interviewing others who have come from her home island gives her opportunity to 'see' her home through their eyes. The result for the reader is a beautiful metaphor of what life must have been like on the tropical island that they left. Not everything though was perfect on the island, with allusions to the reasons for Lola's resettlement in her new country. Lola's final picture includes all the aspects of the island of her birth in brilliant detail. (A somewhat cryptic reference to a 'monster' might need some adult help to explain the metaphor for something awful that the island had to deal with - perhaps political turmoil or conflict. And another reference to her grandmother's or her abuela's psychic may also need explanation or caution.)
Leo Espinosa, an award-winning illustrator, from Bogota in Columbia, illustrates this gentle exploration of identity with wonderful colour and vibrancy. The language of the island is Spanish (not everyone in the world speaks English!) and is included naturally and with references to terms and titles, which gives a reminder of diversity in the world. The author's background is from the Dominican Republic and later, New Jersey in USA, and so the book has an Americas influence which may not be understood by all readers, but it certainly would open eyes to how others live in the world and why some may choose to leave their 'home country'.
Recommended as a book to be shared and explained, for younger readers aged 7-9.
Carolyn Hull

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