One Good Thing About America by Ruth Freeman

One Good Thing About America

Ruth Freeman, Author

Holiday House Books, Fiction,  Mar. 21, 2017

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Pages: 160

Themes: Refugee, Immigration, Africa, Differences, Fitting in, New customs, Language, Foods, Friendships

Synopsis: Back home in Africa, Anais was the best English student in her class. Here in Crazy America she is placed in fourth grade and feels like she doesn’t know English at all.  Nothing makes sense. For example, how can you eat chicken fingers? Anais misses her family: Papa and grandmother Oma and big brother Olivier. Here in Crazy America she has only little Jean-Claude and Mama. So Anais writes lots of letters to Oma — in English because Oma insists. Oma has a friend who translate the letters and writes letters back to Anais.

Anais tells Oma how she misses her and that she hopes the fighting is over soon in the Congo. She worries about her father who is being tracked by government soldiers or rebels as he makes his way to a refugee camp in Kenya, and Olivier who is injured in a skirmish.

She tells Oma about Halloween, snow, mac ‘n’ cheese dinners and princess sleepovers. She tells her about the weird things Crazy Americans do, and how she just might be turning into a Crazy American herself. Over the school year, Anais begins to make friends, feel like she’s part of a community, and finds many good things about America.

Why I like this book:

It is always hard to be the new student in a new school, especially when you come from another country and struggle with the language, look different, eat strange foods, celebrate different holidays and leave  loved ones left behind. Ruth Freeman’s compelling and hopeful book explores differences and common grounds among cultures. She humorously captures Anais’ angst through first person narrative. The story is told in a series of letters that Anais writes to her grandmother, Oma.

After much whining about Crazy America, Anais promises Oma she will try to find one good thing she likes about America daily, whether it is sledding, tasting hot chocolate, backpacks, helpful school teachers, a close group of immigrant friends, and Christmas trees decorated with pictures. This is a good classroom or home practice for youth everywhere. Find something you like in your life daily and be grateful.

As Anais becomes more comfortable in her surroundings, readers will see her growth as she takes the lead and helps newly arriving immigrant children from Iraq, Libya and Somalia adjust to America. This is a timely story for readers as it reminds us that America is a nation of immigrants, where we must learn about each other and celebrate our differences.

Ruth Freeman grew up in rural Pennsylvania but now lives in Maine where she teaches students who are English language learners, including many newly arrived immigrants. She is the author of several nonfiction picture books and this is her first novel.

Greg Pattridge is the host for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

Copy: Library book.

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

22 thoughts on “One Good Thing About America by Ruth Freeman

  1. I enjoyed this one, too. It would be a great resource for English Language Learner students. I also liked the glossary of misunderstood words in the back. Thanks for the review and for keeping books like this on the radar.


  2. Moving to a new country and being separated from family is hard. But I love the advice that Anais’s grandmother suggests to her: find one good thing each day about her new home. Such a great reminder. Wonderful review, Pat!


  3. Wow! My ESL students would have loved and identified with this book! It’s great for American kids to see their world from another point of view. And I love the attitude – of finding one good thing each day – something of value for anyone struggling to get through each day. Thanks for sharing!


    • I studied Spanish and Russian in high school and college. I went to Mexico and felt illiterate, just like Anais. And, English is hard to learn. The phonic change and it is frustrating and difficult. Great story about determination and hope.


  4. Thank you so much for sharing this insightful book with us for MMGM, Patricia! As a former teacher, I can relate to how difficult it is for children new to our country and culture to adjust to a completely new way of life. I will definitely be looking to read this book soon.


    • Yes, it is a perfect book for classrooms. Students need to understand the difficulties of immigrant students and help them. When our son arrived from India at age 12 in 1985, some neighbor boys took him under their wing and helped him and protected him from bullies. I will always be grateful!


  5. A Middle school English teacher just asked me to pull out all our immigration stories for one of her classes. I told her I would buy a few more, so adding this to my list.


  6. I am going to have to read this. I like the idea of finding one good thing about America (or your town, state…..) – it makes you reflect on things you take for granted.


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