Starting Over in Sunset Park – written by José Pelaez and Lynn McGee, illustrated by Bianca Diaz

Starting Over in Sunset Park by José Pelaez and Lynn McGee, illustrated by Bianca Diaz. Tilbury House Publishers, 2021. 9780884488446

Format: Hardcover

Rating:  1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

Genre: Picture book

What did you like about the book? This is a beautifully illustrated story about a child’s immigrant experience. Jessica moves from the Dominican Republic to Sunset Park in Brooklyn. She is homesick, doesn’t know the language, and has trouble feeling comfortable. Over time, she gets to know more people including other immigrants who had similar experiences. When Jessica and her mom start cat-sitting, she notices how the cats feel shy and hide at first, but eventually become comfortable and adjust. Over time, she realizes the same is happening with her and she settles into her new home. Jessica’s feelings will be relatable to all readers, but especially those who have moved to a new area. The text matches a child’s narrative tone, and includes many words and phrases in Spanish (which are then translated). The vibrant illustrations add much to the story and really allow the magic of setting to shine. They appear to be painted and then cut out and layered to help them almost pop off the page. One of the authors used his own immigrant experience as inspiration for the story, and the illustrator lives in Brooklyn, which helps her really set the scene. Side characters are racially and culturally diverse, with most appearing non-white. A list of immigrant resources appears at the end of the book for additional support.

Anything you did not like about the book. Nothing

To whom would you recommend this book? I would definitely give this book to children who have recently moved and are having trouble adjusting. I would also give it to children or a class who has a new student, especially if they are an immigrant. Read-alike with Home Is In Between (Perkins). 

Who should buy this book? Elementary school librarians, public librarians, teachers

Where would you shelve it? Picture books

Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Sarah Bickel, Greenlodge Elementary School, Dedham Massachusetts

Date of review: July 14, 2021

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