Brooklyn is a strange, intimidating place for a girl who speaks no English when she steps off her very first plane after a flight from the Dominican Republic.
Jessica and her mom, Camila, must live in their cousins’ crowded apartment until Camila finds work making holiday decorations and they can afford their own place. Isolated on the playground and baffled in class, unable to understand her teacher’s instructions, Jessica is intensely homesick. But little by little, things get better. She begins to learn English, and she loves the cats she and her mom care for to earn extra money. Left behind by traveling owners, the cats make the best of their situation, inspiring Jessica to do the same.
About the Author
Lynn McGee’s (Bronx, NY) published volumes of poetry include Tracks (2019), Sober Cooking (2016), and two award-winning chapbooks. Twice a Pushcart nominee, she is also a Best of the Net Award nominee and winner of a MacDowell fellowship and a Judith’s Room Emerging Writers Award. She has taught college writing as well as adult literacy to immigrants and has led poetry workshops in New York City elementary schools as an artist-in-residence with the Teachers and Writers Collaborative. Lynn is a communications manager at Borough of Manhattan Community College, The City University of New York. Starting Over in Sunset Park is her first children’s book
Bianca Diaz (Brooklyn, NY), a granddaughter of Mexican immigrants, grew up in Pilsen, a Mexican American neighborhood in Chicago. She believes that healthy communities can help people become happy, independent human beings; through art and education, she strives to be instrumental in the collaborative creation of these communities. Bianca is a 2018 Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Honor recipient for her book The One Day House.
José Pelaez (Brooklyn, NY) founded Kitty in NY, an agency that provides temporary homes to the pets of traveling New Yorkers. Starting Over in Sunset Park explores issues he himself experienced while adjusting to a new life in America. He hopes the book will help children during difficult times of transition.
Diaz renders Sunset Park in
culturally specific detail and with a rainbow of tropical colors; amid a
variety of page layouts, a muted double-page spread of Central Park in the snow
stands out beautifully. Meanwhile, Pelaez and McGee’s text is compassionate and
earnest... — ANAMARÍA ANDERSON - Horn Book
This book is all about immigrating from the Dominican Republic to Brooklyn. It doesn’t sugarcoat anything, but it also ends on a hopeful note. — Betsy Bird - School Library Journal
An Afro-Dominican child with brown skin and colorful bobbles in her braided hair takes her first plane ride, moving from the Dominican Republic to New York City with her mother. Upon arrival, the two stay with an aunt and cousins in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, until they can find an apartment of their own. As Mama gets a job making holiday decorations, the child works hard in school, eventually finding community. In a first-person perspective, Pelaez and McGee sketch vivid portraits of the family’s culture, incorporating defined Spanish: “I missed mi abuela (my grandmother) and her house.” Detailed, marker-bright illustrations by Diaz effectively employ comics-style panels and speech bubbles, successfully reflecting one child’s gradual journey of adaptation.
The Afro-Caribbean experience is seldom seen in children’s books, and cultural insiders will appreciate the text’s references to the Dominican Republic and its inclusion of Spanish language. This can be paired with other stories of immigration, change, or starting anew. — Amina Chaudhri - Booklist
A story full of vitality and compassion, Starting Over in Sunset Park will speak to all readers but will resonate most strongly with anyone who has ever made a home in a new country.