Junot Díaz, Author
Leo Espinosa, Illustrator
Dial Books for Young Readers, Fiction, Mar. 18, 2018
Suitable for Ages: 5-8
Themes: Immigration, Community, Culture, Memory, Diversity, Imagination, Belonging
Opening: Every kid in Lola’s school was from somewhere else. Hers was a school of faraway places.
Synopsis: When Lola’s teacher asks the students to draw a picture of where their families emigrated from, all the kids are excited. Except Lola. She can’t remember the Island she left when she was just a baby. But with the help of her family and friends, and their memories — joyous, fantastical, heartbreaking, and frightening — Lola’s imagination takes her on an extraordinary journey back to the Island. As she draws closer to the heart of her family’s story, Lola comes to understand the truth of her abuela’s words: “Just because you don’t remember a place doesn’t mean it’s not in you.”
Why I like this book:
Junot Díaz has written a poetic and nostalgic story about Lola’s family immigrating from their home on the Island (likely the Dominican Republic) to build a new life in New York City. Lola’s lively and exuberant curiosity leads her on an enchanting journey of discovery of self-discovery. She relies upon the memories of her family, friends and neighbors to help her imagine an Island and a culture that has bats the size of blankets, music, dancing, bright colors, sweet mangoes, beautiful beaches, tropical sunsets, hurricanes and a terrifying monster (dictator) who hurts the people. Leo Espinosa’s dazzling illustrations bring Lola’s Island to life. They are a beautiful celebration of creativity and diversity. Brown children will see themselves in the many different skin-tones. Beautiful collaborative effort between the author and illustrator. This book belongs in school libraries.
Junot Díaz was born in the Dominican Republic and immigrated to New Jersey. He is the author of the critically acclaimed Drown; The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award; and This is How you Lose Her, a New York Times bestseller and National Book Award Finalist. Visit him at his website.
Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.
16 thoughts on “Islandborn by Junot Diaz”
Thank you for your meaningful post about this book, Patricia. The enchanting cover art and engaging synopsis have sparked my interest in reading this story.
The text is a little longer than many picture books, but it is important to the story. Gorgeous illustrations. I loved the story and plan to gift my copy of the book!
Thank you for visiting! It is a lovely multicultural story about finding oneself.
Nice review, Pat. I’m on the fence about this one, struggling to reconcile the work with the real-life actions of the writer that have surfaced recently.
It is such a beautiful story. I’m not familiar with the real-life actions of the writer. Will have to check it out.
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Yes, the kidlit community has been embroiled in the #metoo disclosures.
Don’t know how I’ve missed them, although I try not to spend a lot of time on social media. Missed this one.
Very timely story idea. The cover alone should draw in a lot of readers.
The cover did draw me in immediately. The illustrations are gorgeous and the book has a great message!
I can’t support Junot Diaz after his sexual harassment.
I wasn’t aware of the allegations. Thank you for telling me. It’s too bad because it is a good book.
I do like the sound of this one, Patricia. I think it is wonderful for encouraging children to investigate their family histories and celebrate diversity. As you say, a must for every classroom. Thank you for sharing.
I love the book’s opening line.
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Yes, it draws you into the story immediately!
Lovely story Pat. Thanks for sharing.
Yes, this is such a good story. Love that cover!