NO ENGLISH—Jacqueline Jules
age range: elementary
setting: contemporary classroom
genre: picture book
study guide book trailer
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
Caroline Starr Rose says
Author Margarita Engle says, “Drawing pictures is the way my Cuban mother and American father communicated after fell in love at first sight, without understanding each other’s languages.”
My daughter had a similar experience in first grade … a new student from Brazil joined the class and her wonderful teacher realized he also communicated best through drawing. Now in 9th grade, this child is a gifted artist.
Sheila O'Connor says
What a great resource for teachers and students. Books can be bridges, but they can also be walls. As a writer in the schools, I often had students new to English. When I gave them poems from their own countries they were set on-fire and wrote beautiful work. And I always welcomed pictures. So happy this book is here.
Carole Estby Dagg says
NO ENGLISH also reminds me of the time our cruise ship stopped at a small town in Turkey and I sat on a bench with what were probably grandparents of a darling toddler who had a new puppy. We didn’t speak a word the other could understand, but fond grandmothers are fond grandmothers everywhere, and everyone loves a puppy. Smiles and gestures were enough.
Good luck on finding a deserved home in classrooms and libraries everywhere that cultures meet!
Caroline Starr Rose says
Carole, this reminds me of visiting friends in Spain as a young girl. My mother and her friend, Rosalia, who’d she’d lived with as a university student, spent the day out of the house, leaving me with Rosa’s tia and her children, none of whom spoke English. We had a grand time!
Megan Bostic says
When I was growing up we had tons of children coming to our school from Vietnam and Korea, and I know as children, we weren’t always sympathetic. One day my 5th grade teacher sent me in the hallway with a Vietnamese boy to help teach him English (she would choose a few of us to take turns helping him read). He was a very sweet boy and it helped me understand how hard it must have been for him to be in a new country and a new school and not be able to speak the language.
This sounds like a lovely book and a great way to teach children about acceptance, understanding and friendship.
Kimberly Sabatini says
I lived in Germany for four years after I got married. Most of the time English got the job done, but every once in awhile I had to really stretch my limited German. Thanks for the giveaway!!!
Julia Karr says
Sounds like a great book and one that is becoming increasingly necessary!
J. Anderson Coats says
Earlier this year, I encountered a little girl who’d lost her father in the grocery store. She only spoke Spanish and she was freaking out. So I had to stumble along in a weird pidgin that combined my crappy high school-level Spanish with a dose of classical Latin to calm her down and help her find her dad. She looked at me like I was a crazy person, but it was close enough – we found her dad in the produce section.
Caroline Starr Rose says
I love this, Jillian!
I have helped out individuals whose language was not English. Where we used to live ESL was normal and I worked in a school encountering children daily. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com
Eve Marie Mont says
I used to teach English to Speakers of Other Languages, and this book would be a perfect curricular support. It would also open up a discussion about the bullying that can emerge from misunderstandings and miscommunication.
This brings me back to a time when a friend and I tutored a Hmong immigrant. It’s fun to spend a few moments reliving those memories.
Please do NOT enter me in a giveaway. Seriously, I have won SO often in the past on various blogs that it’s time for others to win!
Reminds me of when my son Ben was in preschool and he was all upset because he wanted to be friends with the new boy because their names rhymed (Ben and Ken), but every time Ben approached, Ken ran and hid under a table. The teacher told Ben that Ken was from Japan and he didn’t know English yet. Ben immediately stopped crying and said, “I’ll teach him!” And he did! He would take things to Ken under the table and tell him the English word…he kept doing that until Ken finally came out from under the table. The two became inseparable.
Caroline Starr Rose says
This is precious!