The Children’s Book Review | November 6, 2019
I Am an English-Language Learner: The Real and Unique Stories of Immigrant Children in America
Written by Melissa Campesi
Illustrated by Kate DuBois
Age Range: 6 and up
Paperback: 32 pages
Publisher: Self-Published (2019)
What to Expect: Culture, Acceptance, Empathy, and Kindness
I Am an English Learner takes readers into an English as a second language (ESL) classroom. The author introduces a sweet group of kids, providing readers with access to a set of real and unique stories of immigrant children in America. This book details the courage it takes to not only learn a second language but to also assimilate into a new country.
The introduction immediately has readers stepping into the shoes of others: “How would you feel if your family moved to a new country where people spoke another language?” As we meet eight children from around the world, the seed of empathy has been planted. The introduction also notes the importance of pronouncing names correctly. Our names are picked just for us and carry honor, so the author has deliberately provided the correct pronunciation for each child we meet within the pages.
Elisa, “Eh-lee-sa,” from Cuba speaks Spanish.
Kunihiko, “Kuh-nee-hee-ko,” from Japan speaks Japanese.
Priya, “Pree-ya,” from India speaks Telugu.
Luckens, “Loo-kens,” from Haiti speaks French.
Claudia, “Clou-dee-ya,” from Mexico speaks Spanish.
Kati, “Ka-ti,” from Estonia speaks Estonian.
Zainab, “Zai-nab,” from Sierra Leone speaks Krio.
Edgar, “Ed-gar,” from Ecuador speaks Spanish.
Each individual’s story begins with a hello in his or her own native language. The stories highlight unique cultural experiences through the sharing of their favorite things from their country: foods, games to play, festivals, and special holidays. There is a repeating theme that when the students are shown kindness and patience, they feel encouraged to keep on learning. These actions help melt fears away. Many of the immigrant children’s American aspirations are wholly relatable: visiting monuments like the Statue of Liberty and the White House, going to a baseball game or a music concert, or seeing native animals.
There are color illustrations throughout, providing a visual of each child, their home country, and the flag of their nation. The back matter is useful for going a little deeper into the stories and cultures. There is a lovely artsy map with speech bubbles indicating where the students are from and how to say hello. A glossary of terms explains the different foods, games, festivals, and holidays mentioned throughout.
This is an encouraging book that reminds us that the cultural life and experiences immigrants bring from their countries are important and add vibrancy to their new country. Readers will discover how fascinating it is to make new friends and the importance of practicing empathy and kindness. I Am an English-Language Learner is a must-read for all elementary school-aged children and their parents. It can only open hearts and minds with the connections it aims to make.
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About the Author
Melissa Campesi is a dedicated English as a Second Language educator in New Jersey. She was born in Queens, NY and moved to New Jersey when she was twelve years old. Melissa grew up in a bilingual household with her mother, a Cuban refugee, father, a Queens native, and a younger brother. She lived in the same apartment house with her maternal grandmother who helped raise her and only spoke to her in Spanish. Since being immersed in a bilingual environment, her love of language and culture flourished.
As a child and teenager, she would visit her grandmother’s hometown in northern Spain during summers and enjoyed connecting with family and friends. Melissa and her family also traveled to many parts of Europe, North America, and the Carribean. These experiences shaped her to become a more culturally perceptive person. Every visit revealed that learning about other cultures meant understanding new viewpoints.
In college, Melissa majored in Speech & Language Pathology with a minor in Spanish. She then pursued her Masters in Elementary Education and became certified in teaching English as a Second Language. Melissa has worked with both ESL children and adults from all over the globe. Her students were the motivation in writing her first children’s book, I am an English Language Learner.
Melissa currently resides in New Jersey with her husband, two sons, two cairn terriers, and a conure bird. Aside from teaching ESL, she loves creative writing, reading poetry, composing music on the piano, and being inspired by nature. Visit her online at www.melissacampesi.com.
Read our exclusive interview: Melissa Campesi Discusses I Am an English-Language Learner
About the Illustrator
Kate DuBois majored in fine art and art history, and specializes in photography and drawing using the stippling technique. She was born in New York City, and raised in Teaneck, NJ in an artistic household where her mother was a professional musician. She currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY as an Architectural Project Coordinator for a creative fabrication company. Visit her online at www.katedubois.com.
Dedicated Reviews allow authors and illustrators to gain prompt visibility for their work. This non-biased review of “I Am an English-Language Learner: The Real and Unique Stories of Immigrant Children in America” was sponsored* by Melissa Campesi. Learn more about getting a book review …