This coming Monday I am part of a blog tour for the release of Ruth Freeman’s new book, One Good Thing About America. Blog tours are awesome because you get to learn a wide variety of information about the book straight from the author. In the case of this book, Ruth Freeman has written 10 outstanding posts about how she wrote the book and about immigrant life. Please come back on Monday to check out the blog tour and enter to win a chance to receive a free copy of the book!
One Good Thing About America is a wonderful book about Anaïs, a young girl who has just immigrated to the United States from the Congo. Her mother and younger brother are with her in Maine and trying to adjust to life in the United States. Unfortunately, her father is in hiding from the Congolese government and her brother has also stayed behind.
The book follows Anaïs as she navigates 4th grade in a new school where she struggles with the language, even though back home she had been top in English. The book is written as letters that Anaïs writes to her grandmother, Oma, back in the Congo. Her grandmother requires her to write her letters in English so that she can practice the language, and the fact that she has trouble with grammar and spelling make her situation more relatable and realistic. It also allows the reader to grow with her as she figures things out.
As with most books that focus on the immigrant experience, Anaïs struggles with the foods, customs, and holidays that the students are so accustomed to. When her classmates struggle with the pronunciation of her name, they wind up calling her Annie instead of Anaïs. Anaïs is also required to be in an English Language Learner class (ELL) for part of her day. Freeman truly understands the importance of those classes as she was an ELL teacher herself, which was the inspiration for this story.
When Anaïs is constantly complaining to Oma about the “Crazy Americans” and how much she would like to go home to the Congo, Oma makes her write “one good thing about America” in each of her letters. Sometimes this is an easy task, like when she has her first taste of potato chips, ice cream, and pizza. Sometimes it is less easy, like when she plans to wear a fancy dress to school before Christmas vacation but instead the have “pajama day.”
One Good Thing About America is a quick read that is incredibly hard to put down. Anaïs is such a sweet young girl that you want to see how her year develops and how she adjusts. J and I both read it and really enjoyed it.
Books like this are so important for our children to read. They allow kids who have been through the immigration process see that they are not alone. It shows American kids how difficult it is to be a refugee and to struggle with language and culture. Seeing it from Anaïs’ perspective allows elementary aged kids to have empathy for her experience and hopefully for other children like her. A marvelous book!