Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Random House
Publication year: 2020
Brief Summary: From Penguin Random House-“For Ren, home is his grandmother’s little house, and the lush forest that surrounds it. Home is a place of magic and wonder, filled with all the fantastical friends that Ren dreams up. Home is where his imagination can run wild. For Ava, home is a brick and cement city, where there’s always something to do or see or hear. Home is a place bursting with life, where people bustle in and out like a big parade. Home is where Ava is never lonely because there’s always someone to share in her adventures. When Ren moves to Ava’s city, he feels lost without his wild. How will he ever feel at home in a place with no green and no magic, where everything is exactly what it seems? Of course, not everything in the city is what meets the eye, and as Ren discovers, nothing makes you feel at home quite like a friend. Inspired by the stories her father told her about moving from Puerto Rico to New York as a child, Zara González Hoang’s author-illustrator debut is an imaginative exploration of the true meaning of ‘home.'”
Ideas for using this book in classroom or library – I think this is another great book for children to see that the imagination can help you acclimate to a new environment and connect you with friends. I think this book is great for children because a lot of children move to new locations and feel lost, and in this book they can see their situation reflected. I found this lesson plan from Read Across America that encourages children to use their own imagination and asks discussion questions about the book.
Whatever additional notes you’d like to add about this book and why you liked or didn’t like it – I really thought Hoang’s illustrations did a great job of showing imaginative thoughts. My favorite illustration is at the end of the book after Ava has shown Ren all the different ways he can expand his imagination in the city, and they reach the top of the roof and he can finally see what Ava has been trying to get him to see.
Brief Summary: From Amazon-“Iris loves to push the elevator buttons in her apartment building, but when it’s time to share the fun with a new member of the family, she’s pretty put out. That is, until the sudden appearance of a mysterious new button opens up entire realms of possibility, places where she can escape and explore on her own. But when she’s forced to choose between going at it alone or letting her little brother tag along, Iris finds that sharing a discovery with the people you love can be the most wonderful experience of all.”
Ideas for using this book in classroom or library – I think this book could work for very young children through to 1st grade. I found this article from The Roarbots website which is an interview with Le and Santat on what they believe the lesson of this book is, what they hope kids take away from this book, and why the ending of the book matters (Iris finally taking her brother with her on her magical trip). I do think the message of this book, that children need a little bit of boredom to use their imagination is important. As Santat reiterates in this interview: “Rather than allowing our kids to have quiet time to discover their own interests and just simply be bored, we’re constantly trying to mold our kids into something or actively trying to discover their passions for them. Boredom was the single greatest gift from my childhood.” And I think that’s what makes this book important to include for children, rather as a read aloud in a public library, or using it to start a discussion with a class of children on what they enjoy doing, what their hobbies are (outside of playing on a computer).
Whatever additional notes you’d like to add about this book and why you liked or didn’t like it – I really loved Santat’s illustrations. It’s like a mix between a comic book (or graphic novel) and a picture book. For me, it reminds me a lot of the action of the Pixar movie The Incredibles. My favorite illustration is of Iris holding her baby brother’s hand as he clutches his stuffed tiger (incidentally Iris’s used-to-be stuffed tiger) staring at he magical doorway with the old elevator switch taped next to it.