In English, of Course
Author: Josephine Nobisso; Illustrator: Dasha Ziborova
Pages: 32
Publisher/Date: Gingerbread House/2002
ISBN: 0940112078
Grade Levels: All

Book Review

This appealing tale is set in a post-WWII classroom full of children, many of them immigrants. When their teacher invites the children to tell a bit about themselves, in English of course, the main character, Josephine, "knew she was in trouble." Although she understands most of the English she hears (or at least thinks she does), she cannot speak it well.

Josephine listens first to Ling-Li, "a tiny girl with an enchanting face," who tells the class about China. Although Ling-Li makes the "sweetest, quickest noises," Josephine understands none of it. When Juan talks about Puerto Rico, Josephine thinks he is trying to speak Italian. But Al, from Jupiter, Florida, is the most perplexing. Josephine had "not been aware that people could even live on Jupiter." Although he seems to speak fluent English, Josephine listens hard trying to "detect Al’s alien accent."

Finally it is Josephine’s turn. "I come from Napoli, Italia," Josephine tells her class. But not having the words to describe her bustling city, she resorts to using "broken English" to describe her one and only visit to a farm.

With the help of her teacher’s prompting, Josephine weaves a wonderfully funny tale wherein she must hide from a pig the size of a car and ends up tumbling into the river—the result of a kick from a cow. "Much river in mouth," Josephine relates. The cow does not fare much better, however; she is pushed into the current by the pig.

Ziborova perfectly captures Josephine’s energetic personality in cut-paper collage and mixed-media illustrations that wander across double-page spreads.

At tale’s end, readers find Josephine copying all the new words she learned that day with the help of her teacher and preparing "tomorrow’s story."

Students will be interested in reading the author’s post-script in which she describes her childhood experiences while living in "Little Italy," in the Bronx.

Classroom Uses: This book will make a wonderful resource in any classroom, but most especially in classrooms with students for whom English is a second language. It could also serve as a stimulus to classroom discussions on diversity, immigration, multiculturalism, and empathy. After reading the book aloud, for example, the teacher could encourage students to talk about how Josephine felt, not being able to communicate.

Reviewed by the teachers at Education Oasis.
©2004 Education Oasis®

About the Author

As the daughter of parents who were Italian immigrants, Josephine Nobisso gets along not only in English (of course!), but in other languages, too. She loves foreign travel, decorating, collecting picture books, cooking up a vegetarian storm, and taking long walks. Ms. Nobisso has won several important awards, and she regularly conducts workshops in her unique method for teaching writing.

About the Illustrator

Dasha Ziborova came to the United States from Russia, where she studied at the Academy of Design and at the Academy of Fine Arts, both in St. Petersburg. She like cats, computers, Vietnamese food, babies (while they are sleeping), and riding her bicycle around New York City. Dasha designs computer games and websites, and has painted large murals throughout Manhattan.


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You may buy this book from the publisher, Gingerbread House.