“…This simple story puts a child-friendly spin on a common immigrant experience as the child’s classmates respond with similar puzzle pictures of their own names.” —Kathleen Isaacs, School Library Journal
Sangoel is a refugee. Leaving behind his homeland of Sudan, where his father died in the war, he has little to call his own other than his name, a Dinka name handed down proudly from his father and grandfather before him. When Sangoel and his mother and sister arrive in the United States, everything seems very strange and unlike home. In this busy, noisy place, with its escalators and television sets and traffic and snow, Sangoel quietly endures the fact that no one can pronounce his name. Lonely and homesick, he finally comes up with an ingenious solution to this problem, and in the process he at last begins to feel at home.
Reviews & Accolades
“…This simple story puts a child-friendly spin on a common immigrant experience as the child’s classmates respond with similar puzzle pictures of their own names…The diversity of the boy’s schoolmates is evident in Stock’s skillfully detailed watercolor and collage illustrations. An endnote gives more information about refugees and refugee camps as well as about Dinka naming practices. This picture book by the authors of Four Feet, Two Sandals (Eerdmans, 2007) is an excellent addition to the growing body of immigration stories for young readers.” —Kathleen Isaacs, School Library Journal
“…The immigrant experience is clearly portrayed in his story…Subsequent scenes focus on people, continuing the theme of the humanistic story. The boy and his family become genuine personalities we care about. The front jacket/cover illustration of Sangoel watching American boys playing soccer with the back showing boys in Africa doing the same carries the book’s message of commonality of cultures.” —Children’s Literature
“The authors of Four Feet, Two Sandals (2007, illustrated by Doug Chayka) craft another sensitively written, hope-filled immigrant story, this one featuring a young Sudanese refugee who finds an inventive way to break the ice in his new American school…Though a skinny eight-year-old with downcast eyes, Sangoel is such a picture of quiet dignity that readers will come away admiring his courage and self-possession.” —Kirkus Reviews
“…It imparts the emotional challenges of the refugee experience without dragging young readers too deeply through the horrors of war. It illustrates that even those fortunate enough to be resettled must deal with their difficult pasts while navigating a new present and trying to maintain a sense of themselves as whole individuals. Children will be impressed with Sangoel’s story and ingenuity. It is clear that the family will not have an easy life, but with resilience and resourcefulness they will overcome their challenges.” —Abigail Sawyer, Paper Tigers
Immigration, cultural identity, family death
Since I have lived in other countries and cultures for extended periods of time throughout the last 30 years, it is only natural that I have come to use the material from these experiences in my writing. Beyond that meeting people from other cultures and experiencing life outside my own world of comfort is a passion and joy for me and all successful writing must grow out of the author’s passions.
When I wrote my first book I did have some concerns and was less than confident about how Galimoto, a book about a boy in Malawi, Africa, by a white woman from Connecticut, would be received. But I did my research which involved mostly getting to know the children of Malawi and following them as they worked and played. Knowing the language helped me a lot to understand the culture.
As I continued to travel and live abroad I began to realize that many of the children I met all over the work had much in common and I became more comfortable as I felt I knew my characters very well.
When Khadra asked me to co-author picture books about refugees, she told me that a young girl from Pakistan asked her why there were no books for children like her. I was intrigued but I had to do my research. I began volunteering with refugee children, interviewing them and reading fiction and non-fiction by and about refugees around the world. I caught the passion. Khadra was a kindred spirit with similar sensibilities toward the work as I have. She had the stories and I had the knowledge of the craft. It was a perfect match.
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