When a picture book is published and finally makes its way into the hands of readers, this marks the end of a long journey of editing, rewrites, illustrating, designing, and discussion. It’s also the beginning of sales, publicity, promotions, and CELEBRATION.
Author/illustrator Anne Sibley O’Brien’s latest picture book I’m New Here (ages 5–8) officially pubbed on August 4, 2015, and was celebrated last week at the Portland Public Library. The event included a reading from the author, the premiere of a student-driven video, an interactive photo stand, and so much more.
That same day launched National Welcoming Week across the United States, with an event at the White House that prompted national discussion about welcoming immigrants as well as refugees fleeing violence. How fitting for I'm New Here, as Annie’s picture book is about three immigrant students struggling to speak, write, and share ideas in America. These characters experience language barriers and difficulty understanding new traditions and culture. But with a little support—and a lot of courage—Maria from Guatemala, Jin from Korea, and Fatima from Somalia, begin to participate and feel at home.
Annie partnered with Kirsten Cappy of Curious City (an organization that builds creative outreach projects for authors, illustrators, and publishers) to hire a local videographer to film public elementary school kids discussing I’m New Here. When the film played at the book launch, students in the audience giggled and cheered at seeing themselves and their peers on screen. The students had drawn pictures and explained what it feels like to be new (answers ranged from sad to stressed to excited). Many expressed the desire to befriend anyone who might be new.
Student artwork was also on display, and photos were taken of all attendees holding giant paper speech bubbles that said “welcome” in various languages. Annie went on to sign books as many mingled and tasted treats from around the globe. Even Portland’s mayor showed up, demonstrating how the day was a community triumph on many levels.
Perhaps the most poignant moment came when watching Annie’s interview during the film. The author/illustrator explained how the book began with her hope to show that immigrant students bring full, rich lives with them when they move to new countries. They’re not blank slates.
While Annie spent much of her childhood in Korea, learning to assimilate in a new country as the daughter of medical missionaries, she sees that children new to America today face far greater challenges than she did. As one of the founders of I'm Your Neighbor, an organization that promotes children's literature featuring "new arrival" cultures, she is creating books, discussions, and community projects that demonstrate how our global community—at home and in the classroom—can work together and build a home for all. The launch of I’m New Here was certainly a memorable celebration with this sentiment at the very forefront.
(l to r: Author Anne Sibley O'Brien, Charlesbridge Associate Editor Julie Bliven, Kirsten Cappy of Curious City)
- I’m New Here video, Welcoming Immigrant Students
- Author Anne Sibley O'Brien Talks about Immigrant Students
- I’m Your Neighbor Organization
- Visit Anne online
I'm New Here
978-1-58089-612-2 HC $16.95
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- Tags: Anne Sibley O'Brien, Curious City, I'm New Here, I'm Your Neighbor, immigrant students, National Welcoming Week, Portland Public Library