Here I am – Asia to the USA – Patti Kim and Sonia Sánchez

Here I am

Why a booktrail?

A beautiful story told in pictures about a young child who moves from Asia (we think Korea as this is where the author is from) to USA and tries to find his feet.


How do you make a new country feel like home?

A young boy moves with his family from his homeland to New York City and for such a young child the move is overwhelming – everything is bigger,noisier and very very different.

Simple things such as how does he get to school are tricky and so he starts to feel alone and afraid. All he has in the world is  a little seed that he carries around in his pocket which make him feel safe and reminds him of happier times.

But one day he drops the seed..

Place and setting

A big big journey for a small small boy
A big big journey for a small small boy

Whether you are a child or an adult, if you have moved from one country to another this book (all in pictures) will resonate with you. It’s a poignant story of the confusion of a small boy in a new and scary world.

If ever the saying ‘ A picture says a thousands words’ as true, then this is the book to prove that is true. Each and every line in the drawing seems to have been considered with such grace and skill that the feelings of loneliness and overwhelming confusion are imbued in every stroke of the pen and brush.

Patti Kim herself emigrated from Korea to America when she was a child and this is explained at the back of the book. How lovely to have told this story in book form and to have given this as a gift to new readers young and old.

For those of us with experience of even living in a country for a short period, many of the emotions in the book will resonate, not least the boy’s expressions and sense of loss. The joys of the new world coupled with the confusion of it is neatly tied up here in stunning illustrations.

Ever felt the joy of a whole new world but then felt sad and confused when you can’t do even the simplest thing such as ordering a coffee as you don’t know the language or how to go about it? Think of this little boy who doesn’t understand the signs or the way on his way to school. The seed he has in his pocket is his way of holding on to some degree of certainty – a security blanket

Bookish musings

This book has no words but it brought me to tears – the fear and loneliness in that little boys face was very sad to see. The signås which appear gibberish at first soon become clearer and it was then that I started to cheer for the little guy as he becomes more confident in his new world.

This book is like a song which gets into your head and never lets go. Ever since I read it, it comes back to me and I see the boy in my mind and he has stayed with me ever since. I wanted to hug him and tell him that everything would be alright on many occasions and I would have done if it had been possible.

The book is so subtle that people who have moved countries will think the book speaks to them in ways that it does no one else. Its the small things that are weird in any new country – the everyday that you take for granted, the shock you feel when things are not the same.

.The illustrations are simply stunning and the layout which is decorative and not just left to right adds to the way in which  the boys thoughts are not clear cut. The story and pictures together pack quite a punch.

For old and young, this book is really a charming and poignant look at the immigration experience through the eyes of a child.

Literary haven, USA

Green Apple

Green Apple Books, a quaint and unique book store in SF was a particular joy to visit when I was travelling on the West Coast. Apparently it’s ten times the size it was when it opened back in 1967. I didn’t ask any of the locals about it, I simply wandered in one day and was looking forward to discovering a lovely book haven. I sadly didn’t take pictures as I didn’t have a camera with me, but allow me to take you there in your mind’s eye….

Well I wasn’t disappointed. It is a book haven and then some. New books, old books, battered books but well-loved books and the atmosphere created in Green Apple was one I wanted to linger in. I remember the WOW collection of books but also the décor of the store – the towering book cases lining the wall, stuffed full of words, images and  literary bliss.

Hours I spent just gaping in awe – only looking down as I stepped on a creaky floorboard which only added to my book searching bliss. I didn’t really know what I was looking for but I found it. That’s the measure of a very good book store. I even wondered at one stage if I would be able to drag myself away. Would they let me sleep here I wondered? I saw a comfy chair and thought about building a wall of books around me, but the desire to read what I’d bought was too strong and so I did leave in the end.

The books here are the main attraction but the hand written signs and maps were a notable second. Someone has literally made and crated this store with their hands. Handwritten signs and maps. Signs about the till. The written word – both outside and inside the books. And I loved the  haphazard storage as it added to the thrills and spills of what a good book shop should really offer: a search facility  with a great literary prize at the end. The ‘read around the world section’ was a particular favourite of mine. Reading around the world is my favourite thing ever and the reason I do this blog! I’ve found a bosom buddy I thought to myself. I was meant to wander in here!

The sounds and smells of Green Apple made it a day to remember. The staff was so friendly and I almost asked them for a job so I could stay there forever. This is the Apple store I love – although I do have an iphone and have been known to read books on it – there is no joy as pure as finding a thrift book store and losing yourself in the wealth of the printed literary word. Browsing on the apple phone or in the Green apple shop? Both healthy but there’s nothing like the feel and smell of a new literary friend.

I very much hope I have the pleasure of returning one day. I miss it already.

Henrietta Lacks, East Baltimore, USA

This story is so overwhelming and so important on multiple levels, I’m not sure anything I could say about it would do justice.

I was intrigued by it when I read about it on a Canadian website  –  the Globe and Mail . I like to get inspiration from lots of different sources and read things I may not have considered before. A book about science I thought? Although I am very interested in science, I have never really read a book about it and expected it to be hard to follow or enjoy.

But boy how wrong was I…..

The story surrounding Henrietta Lacks is quite like anything else I’ve ever read.

It might not be far from the truth to state that she was the most important person who ever lived. A physical part of her body has saved hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of lives, and improved the lives of countless others. A sample of cancerous cells was taken from her cervix . Henrietta’s cells would continually divide when cultured. These cells were named ‘HeLa’ using the first two letters of the forename and surname of Henrietta Lacks. The cells soon became famous worldwide but Henrietta herself remained unknown.

This may be a shock in itself but the real shock is that the harvesting and use of her  cells was done without her or her family’s knowledge.

The book is actually two stories, the story of the HeLa cells and the story of the Lacks family told by a journalist who writes the first story and is deeply involved in the second.

HeLa cells have given us our future. They are the most researched and tested human cells in existence. All of us have benefited from the medical advances made using them and the book is recognition of what a great contribution Henrietta Lacks and her family made.

But should we pay a donor and their family for their cells?

–          No I don’t think we should as this happens every day and is vital for ongoing medical research. But that fact that Henrietta’s cells were so groundbreaking for medical science should be recognized and her family compensated for. After all, Henrietta’s contribution to medical science is priceless.

It says on the book that it was a best seller in the US and that it deserves to be so here in the UK. I hope that this story is told to as many people as possible as it deserves to be.

Voices from the Titanic

At about the same time as the anniversary of the Titanic sinking in April this year, I came across a book called ‘Voices of the Titanic’ in a second hand bookshop. Its topicality was not the only reason that I picked it up, but rather its  promise on the back of wanting to tell a story that had not been told before. Having read the book, I wanted to express my thoughts on what it meant to have been allowed to take a personal tour into this piece of history.

Now I immediately thought, like probably you are doing now, that the story of the Titanic must be one of the most well known if not infamous stories of its time. This book however  reads like a journal stuck in the past, with its entries from the ship’s various travellers, building up a picture of the human side to the story.

And essentially that’s what the Titanic was about. forget the fact of why the  ship sank, those who made the decisions about the ships speed, design and concept. The Titanic story is about those who were aboard – whether it be those dripping in diamonds or those in third class hoping for a new life. They were all human, all people with similar hopes and dreams of going to America on the most amazing ship  of its time. Devastation following the sinking affected all equally irrespective of money or background.

The port of Southampton and the site where it sank are not the real places associated with this story. The many birth places of the travellers are the real locations of ‘Voice of the Titanic’. Told in each single voice of those who travelled, the stories within are both from those from survived and perhaps most poignantly those who didn’t. The latter were taken from postcards and letters sent out to loved ones from the ship or before they sailed.

These stories are made all the more treasured as they are from the people who were there and for whom the Titanic’s fate was not just a big news story but a part of their story. And I feel that they were talking directly to me. And sometimes I felt really sad but on the whole the book was an amazing account of some remarkable and unforgettable people. Turns out the story of the Titanic is not about a ship at all.