By Junot Diaz
(for readers in grades Kindergarten – 3rd grade)
Junot Diaz author of “The Brief Wondrous Life Oscar Wao” has written his first children’s book! Diaz, born in the Dominican Republic and raised in New Jersey, gives Lola the protagonist of “Islandborn” a similar circumstance. Lola is asked to draw a picture of her home country for homework, but she can’t remember the island because she left it when she was a baby. Her teacher advises her to speak to people who remember the island. This is how Lola learns about coconut and sweet mangoes, and the music, dancing, and livelihood of her birthplace’s people. She ponders why people ever left such a beautiful place. She receives an answer to this question from her apartment’s superintendent.
Junot Diaz facility with words powers Lola’s voice as chatty, wistful, thoughtful, and intelligent. Diaz beckons his readers to explore what it means to belong and acknowledge one’s origins. Diaz also includes some history of the Dominican Republic and the reason many emigrated from there. Diaz’s story is made the brighter by Leo Espinosa’s mixed media print illustrations that awaken the imagination and brings Lola’s neighborhood to life.
“Islandborn” is the perfect inspiration for any child who wants to know more about their home country. Lola’s discoveries bring her closer to her island, and give her a sense of belonging. This is a great book for parents to use as a jumping point for a discussion with their children about their country of origin!