A collection of poems and sidebars reminding readers of the value of immigrants—their challenges, their contributions, their humanity—shouldn’t be some sort of statement in 2018. My goodness, it should be unnecessary in a nation that was founded by refugees, prospered due to immigration, and has long stood as an (largely) open-armed beacon to the world. But in the past couple of years especially, America seems to have taken a terrifying step backwards in our understanding of the people who arrive on our borders and, indeed, of our very own personal and national histories.
Each time I create one of these A-to-Z tomes, I put a puzzle together. Twenty-six letters, reams of possibilities, pick the most important aspects of the subject matter and place each accordingly. When I can, I do my best to begin each book with some sort of appropriate introductory narrative, and this one was perhaps my best example of that. The very first poem summarizes the sensibilities of the book: A is for America… a dreamer’s destination… made up of people who are here… due to immigration. With the next letter, I hoped to convey that—perhaps with the exception of full-blooded Native Americans—we all come from somewhere else. So B was for the land bridge over the Bering Strait. When C provided Culture, D offered Diversity and E celebrated Ellis Island, I was off and running.
Finally, the title. Here was a challenge. I believe that this is a book with an overt message, but we wanted to make sure that it was going to be as widely embraced as possible. How does a title accomplish this balancing act? Well, SBP came up with the subtitle: “A Celebration of America’s Diversity.” I came up with “W is for Welcome.” And really, doesn’t that say it all?
I’m immensely proud of this book. I humbly believe it should have a special place in every school library, every public library—frankly, every officeholder’s office. It stands as a paragon for what I have always hoped to achieve as a children’s author: Educate while entertaining. And, naturally, I dedicated it to my ancestors who arrived in America more than a century ago from Central Europe… and to “anyone who has had the courage to seek refuge, opportunity, freedom, or family in a foreign land.”
From e: I shared the book trailer the other day, but it's worth sharing again...