NO ENGLISH—Jacqueline Jules
In a moving picture book, Jules explores the loneliness of an immigrant child, telling the story from the viewpoint of the child’s American classmate. . . . Realistic watercolor scenes of the classroom and the schoolyard show Blanca as an unhappy outsider at first, then, later, as one of the crowd. Relayed through the insider’s first-person perspective, the message about being kind to strangers is subtle but still easily understood. — Book List
The story subtly explains how miscommunication and misunderstandings can happen on both sides, without being didactic. The watercolor pictures are realistic, offering varied facial expressions and lots of diversity in the classroom, and the pictures correlate well with the text. —School Library Journal.
Guidance counselors, teachers, librarians, and parents could use this book as a conversation starter about acceptance and kindness to others. —Library Media Connection
Please tell us about your book.
“It bothered me like a scratchy tag at the back of my neck. How could I make friends with Blanca? She didn’t understand when I talked to her.”
Every time someone speaks to Blanca, the new girl from Argentina, she shakes her head and says, “No English.” Second grader Diane is not sympathetic at first. She is jealous because their teacher, Mrs. Bertram, allows Blanca to draw instead of doing class work. One misunderstanding follows another until Diane feels compelled to makes things right. But how can Diane apologize when they don’t speak the same language?
What drew you to this topic?
It was over a decade ago. I was working as a school librarian in a Title I school. My students came from over thirty different countries. Many of them were just learning English. A lovely brown-haired girl came to my library every afternoon to check out books in Spanish. She came up to the circulation desk with a shy smile, saying, “No English.” Our only communication was non-verbal—smiles, nods, pointing. This experience inspired me to write about immigration.
However, there are many children’s books about what it is like for the immigrant child trying to adjust. I wanted to write something that expressed my own feelings and presented the topic from a different viewpoint. How do you make friends with someone who doesn’t understand you? Sometimes language barriers cause misunderstandings. I wanted to be honest about that. It is not easy to begin a relationship without a common language, but it can be done. In NO ENGLISH, two second grade girls find a creative way to overcome a language barrier. The protagonist, Diane, is really me and how I felt trying to reach out to my students.
How would your book fit into the classroom?
NO ENGLISH would work well as a beginning of the year activity. At its core, it is a story about making new friends, something all elementary school classrooms want to foster at the beginning of the year.
The teacher’s guide has several activities which prompt students to think about how they can welcome others, particularly students from other countries.
A poem, “Recipe for Friendship” asks students to identify the qualities they seek in a new friend.
There is also an activity on tattling versus telling. At the beginning of NO ENGLISH, Diane is unkind to Blanca, the new girl from Argentina. Diane’s regret for tattling spurs the relationship. Friendship can grow out of misunderstandings and this is a good topic for discussion at any time of the year.
NO ENGLISH supports the writing curriculum. Diane and Blanca ultimately become friends by communicating through pictures. They each make a picture of their families and label it. This activity can be reproduced in the classroom with the teacher’s guide graphic. After students have drawn and labeled a picture of their families, they can explain the picture in words. Encourage the students to draw a family trip or activity that would be fun to write about.
The NO ENGLISH teacher’s guide also contains Spanish language activities, a crossword, and research ideas for both science and social studies topics.
One softcover copy of NO ENGLISH
Enter to win by leaving a comment below, sharing a situation where you’ve experienced a language barrier. The winner will be selected randomly on Friday, August 30.
Giveaway update: Congratulations to winner, Kimberly Sabatini