My Two Blankets by Irena Kobald & Freya Blackwood. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015.
Our young narrator loved her life at home in Africa, until war came and they had to leave. Now she lives in a place where everything is strange, unfamiliar, and she doesn’t speak the language. She clings to a brightly colored blanket made of familiar fabrics from her home for comfort. Then one day, a girl at the playground makes friends with her and gives her words as gifts. The words and the welcome combing to make a new, metaphorical blanket – very different from her old one, but just as comfortable.
This is a cozy, approachable book about a difficult situation. The reasons for leaving the home country are only briefly mentioned, and kept at a level appropriate for older preschoolers and early elementary aged children. Most of the focus is on the difficulty of adjusting to life in the new country, and how much this is helped by having a friend. Freya Blackwood’s pencil and watercolor illustrations go a long way towards giving the story a cozy, relatable feeling. (Hooray for another book from Freya Blackwood! I hadn’t seen any of her work since Ivy Loves to Give, though that’s mostly negligence on my part.) It felt a little stereotypical to me that the little girl helping the narrator is blond, until I read in the afterward that the author is herself immigrated to Australia from Austria, and the story is based on her own daughter’s friendship with an African immigrant.
This would work very well for my Girl Scout Daisy Diversity project – it’s perfect for the friendly and helpful petal. Those of the girls for whom English is their first language all have classmates for whom it isn’t, and many of them have also moved, so the applications are immediate. Really, that’s most schools these days. Besides the thoughts on welcoming and friendship, there’s the shared love of words, a beautiful thing in itself. It’s short, poignant, and optimistic – highly recommended.