Home Is in Between

Farrar. Feb. 2021. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780374303679.
K-Gr 4–Perkins explores a child’s experience of immigration in a sweet and child-friendly story presented in a beautifully illustrated package. Readers meet young Shanti, a girl with brown skin and black pigtails, as she and her parents leave their village in India and relocate to a “town” in the United States. Shanti moves back and forth between cultures, first skipping, then running, then trudging. These changing action words are a metaphor for the labor of navigating between two sides of one’s self. Perkins shows cultural examples: the familiarities of the village carried over in food, music, and household habits, along with the new sports, language, and holidays of the town. A refrain repeats: “Remembering the village. Learning the town. Again and again. In between.” There are endearing moments. Shanti makes a new friend quickly and enjoys learning with her about town life. But she also struggles with school, misses family, and is the target of microaggressions. The range of emotions shows on her face: excitement, longing, frustration, comfort, and defeat. Naidu’s animated style, with bright popping colors, expands on what Perkins leaves untold in her short poetic stanzas and careful words. As the harshness and unfamiliarity of the winter melt away, Shanti feels the warmth of the spring and determines to make her home in a space between cultures. The book ends with a glossary of Bangla words, and an author’s note about her own immigrant experience, and her framing of code switching and biculturalism as a gift and a superpower.
VERDICT This book can serve as either a validating mirror or an illuminating window. A warm read-aloud, it is a must-purchase for all picture book collections.

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