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Here I Am by Patti Kim and Sonia Sánchez

Here I am
Here I Am is a wordless picture book that charts one young boy’s arrival in a new country. The story is by Patti Kim, and is based on her experiences of moving from Korea to America when she was barely more than a toddler. The pictures are by Sonia Sánchez. This is the first time I’ve encountered either author.

At first the unfamiliar sights and sounds overwhelm the boy, and he struggles to feel happy in his new home.

A fortuitous accident gets him exploring the neighbourhood and he begins to see that there are good things awaiting him.

Here I Am is a very beautiful book. The illustrations convey all the boy’s emotions: his confusion, sadness, anger, curiosity, and joy. Some pages have an explosion of colour, others are muted – they all have a sketched quality that I liked very much.

There are no words, so we are able to create our own story from the pictures, which gives a lot of room for discussion and to me, promotes a very empathetic reading of the book. I’d really like to try and use this book for a story time reading; it would be satisfying, I think, to get the children to tell the story aloud from the illustrations (I am briefly cursing no longer being a children’s bookseller).

This is an interesting book in more than its subject matter. It has both a writer and an illustrator, but of course it is a wordless story. It has made me think again about an article I read yesterday about the disparity between writers and illustrators in terms of the credit given to each, by Sarah McIntyre. I expect I do know the writers of many more picture books than I do the illustrators, despite the pictures being the reason I love picture books. I wonder how different it is to illustrate something when there are no words in the text…

This is a heartfelt book; it shows the dislocation of immigrating effortlessly, and sits well with the necessary campaign for more diverse books. Good work from Curious Fox in publishing Here I Am in the UK.

The publisher was kind enough to send me copy of Here I Am for review. It is published, in paperback, on 12 February 2015.


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