Growing up an immigrant from the Philippines wasn’t always easy for Elsie, especially when her teachers wouldn’t even listen when she told them her name. They just went on calling her Maria. Still, she did want to let her own two daughters know about her story and where she came from, even if the stories were hard to tell sometimes. But how do you get two young kids into bed on time and tell them all about what it was like growing up in a new and foreign country? Sometimes it is easier to tell a fairytale to help people understand what you are trying to say, so that is what Elsie does.
We Belong by Cookie Hiponia Everman is a very quick novel in verse read. However, the story jumps back and forth between Elsie and her two young daughters and a fairytale from the Philippines and while the fairytale is in different color text, as a reader, I often struggled at the beginning to know who was telling the main story. And there are many characters with the same names and multiple names, which makes it a bit of a confusing read. If you are looking for an immigration story where the immigrant can reflect back on their life and transition, this would be a good pick. There is a nice glossary at the end to help the reader understand many of the Tagalog words interspersed throughout the book. However, there are so many Tagalog words, that to keep flipping back and forth interrupts the reading and flow of the story. I didn’t see the glossary until later after finishing the book, and did go to look up one words. Most of the others you can get an sense of from just reading the story.
Recommended for 8th graders simply because the text can be a bit confusing at times.