Book reviews: Islandborn, and, Lola, by Junot Diaz, illustrated by Leo Espinosa

Diaz, Junot. Illustrated by Leo Espinosa. Islandborn. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2018. $17.99. ISBN 9780735229860. Unp. Ages 4-8. P9 Q9

Lola attends a multicultural elementary school, where every student is from somewhere else. When her teacher asks the students to draw a picture of their “first home,” Lola is determined to gather accounts of the Dominican Republic from her neighbors in order to depict the island home she is too young to remember.  The story’s innovative language—”blanket  bats,” “more music than air,” “beaches are poetry,”—is perfectly illustrated by Espinosa’s colorful pictures. While all of the Island’s beautiful qualities are well represented, the story covers the nation’s horrific history especially effectively. It reminds the reader that people are forced from their home countries for reasons beyond their control, and we all benefit from the cultural remnants they bring along.

Verdict: This book thoughtfully depicts Afro-Latinx culture, one that is underrepresented in books for children. Its colorful pictures and language will keep the attention of young readers. I would recommend this as a read-aloud for grades K-2.


Diaz, Junot. Illustrated by Leo Espinosa. Lola. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2018. $17.99. ISBN 9780735229860. Unp. Ages 4-8. P8 Q9

Lola is the Spanish language version of Islandborn. Named for its young protagonist,  Lola has the same colorful story and vibrant imagery as the English language version. The two books are identical in message, lyrical language, and rich cultural references. The difference lies in the increased authenticity of the telling Lola’s story in Spanish. Having both an English and Spanish version of this story means that it reaches a larger audience and can be discussed my young readers from multiple backgrounds and first homes.

Verdict: Lola is recommended for classrooms with Spanish speaking students as well as those with students interested in learning to read and speak Spanish. Either instance will benefit from the use of this book in conjunction with the English version.

June 2018 reviews by Lillian Curanzy.


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