by Judy Newman with Cristy Bertini and Alana Pedalino
I often wonder what it was like for my family when they immigrated to the US from Russia in the 1900s. Were they afraid? Were they excited for a new life? What did it feel like to come to America? How did they adjust to this new world? I would have felt so many different emotions…sadness, fear, hopefulness…like a stranger in a strange land. It’s hard for me to imagine it, and even harder to imagine what it must be like for children.
My grandmother Rae was the daughter of a professional trumpet player who performed for the tsar in Russia. He left Russia, immigrated to the US, and played in the orchestra pit in Boston theaters back in the days when most theatrical productions were accompanied by live musicians. Rae followed in her father’s musical footsteps, becoming a piano teacher who would host recitals in the living room of her apartment each year for her students and their families. They brought a gift of music with them to this country and shared it generously.
Nearly 70 million Americans are immigrants or the children of parents who came from another country. Some fled war or persecution; others wanted a new start or a better life in the land of opportunity for all.
Mượn Thị Văn was born in Vietnam while her family was in hiding. “We were fugitives,” she said in an interview with my friends at Story Monsters Ink magazine last summer. “My father fought on the losing side of the Vietnamese-American war. When the new Vietnamese government took power, they didn’t treat those who had served in opposition to them well.”
With the help of her grandfather’s small fishing boat, Mượn and her family escaped to Hong Kong and eventually made it to Kansas before settling in Galveston, Texas, where she grew up in a close-knit community of refugees from Vietnam.
Once settled in the United States, Mượn fell in love with reading. She said the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories were the first books she discovered, and with eight siblings, reading was her go-to when she wanted to do an activity on her own. The first language she learned to speak was Vietnamese, but the first language she learned to read was English, and she didn’t discover picture books until she was in high school.
Since Mượn couldn’t find many books that reflected her experiences, she decided to write her own. Wishes is a snippet of her family’s journey to a new home. Victo Ngai’s stunning illustrations so perfectly capture the experience and emotions of the story, you just can’t stop looking at them. And yet the story itself doesn’t dwell on the physical details. Instead, each line of text is written in the form of a wish: “The home wished it was closer.” “The bag wished it was deeper.” “The sea wished it was calmer.” It’s amazing to me how so few words can have such a profound impact.
“This rich and nuanced tale illuminates the closely held wishes of refugees the world over. It’s unforgettable.” ―BookPage
“This story of escape makes refugees’ experiences more lucid and will summon deep feeling from readers.” ―Booklist
“A superb, beautifully moving collaboration of text and illustration.” ―Kirkus Reviews
Wishes is a special picture book—and the Scholastic Book Clubs Book of the Week—that we are most excited about sharing with teachers, students, and families. In order to make this incredible story of resilience more widely available, we’ve printed it for the first time ever as a paperback for this week’s exclusive $1 promotion.
David Vozar was so moved by Wishes, he illustrated his own four-panel comic book report:
We’ve created some teacher-approved resources to help you share Wishes with your students:
• Watch the Book Boys in a classroom-friendly video as they explore Wishes and the history of Vietnamese immigration in the US
• Learn how a third grade teacher uses Wishes to teach students about empathy and resilience in Book Talks
• View an exclusive video interview with author Mượn Thị Văn in Behind the Scenes
• Download a printable “Draw a Mood Picture” activity to accompany Wishes in Cooked Up from a Book
I hope your students love reading Wishes and it reminds them that until you walk a day in someone else’s shoes, you never really know where they’ve been or where they’re going. With this book, you get to see the entire journey instead of a few steps.
This Book Is Available from Scholastic Book Clubs