Home Is In Between


Home Is In Between
Picture Book | Macmillan FSG | 2/23/21 
A Junior Library Guild Selection

Reviews

★"Perkins explores a child’s experience of immigration in a sweet and child-friendly story presented in a beautifully illustrated package . . . Naidu’s animated style, with bright popping colors, expands on what Perkins leaves untold in her short poetic stanzas and careful words. As the harshness and unfamiliarity of the winter melt away, Shanti feels the warmth of the spring and determines to make her home in a space between cultures. The book ends with a glossary of Bangla words, an author’s note about her own immigrant experience, and her framing of code switching and biculturalism as a gift and a superpower . . . This book can serve as either a validating mirror or an illuminating window. A warm read-aloud, it is a must-purchase for all ­picture book collections." ~ School Library Journal starred review

★"Animation-style characters by Naidu reflect emotion clearly, while straightforward writing by Perkins shows how Shanti learns to appreciate aspects of her new life while keeping people and elements from her old one close to her heart." ~ Publisher's Weekly starred review

★"Reflecting the experiences of Perkins and many other immigrant children, this heartfelt picture book records the push/pull of remembering the old ways while learning the new ones. Lively and specific in its references, the writing sets up cultural dichotomies that work particularly well in expressive, richly colored artwork by Naidu, an Indian animator and illustrator. By shining a light on one girl’s story, this vibrant picture book illuminates the experience of many immigrant children." ~ ALA Booklist starred review

"In this heartwarming story, Shanti navigates her multiple cultural identities by finding a home 'in between.' Through her new experiences, Shanti learns that she is both Indian and American. Many will be able to relate to this book and the experience of creating a beautiful and complex middle space." ~
Toronto Star

"Accessible and sincere, Shanti’s story shines a light on the challenges and joys of inhabiting, embracing and celebrating two cultures." ~ Book Page

"Critically acclaimed author Mitali Perkins has created a charming and powerful look at the experience of immigrating to a new culture that pays tribute to the resilience of children." ~ A Mighty Girl

"Shanti's enthusiasms for both her home village and her new town offers a refreshing view of multiculturalism as a source of rich life. Perkins's prose is rhythmic and controlled, with just enough detail to immerse readers in Shanti's experience and follow her satisfying journey. Naidu's cartoonlike illustrations, in a warm color palette, are energetic and full of emotional express, adding layers to the story and making Shanti an endearing and memorable character." ~ Horn Book

"Music, dancing, funny stories, food, and new friends fill bright, luminous scenes. Readers watch Shanti evolve, learning fluency in both Indian and American spaces. Perkins writes in an afterword that this evolution is a gift. It becomes the young immigrants’ 'super power.' Cracking codes in other cultures cues up compassion and empathy in Home Is In Between, and it’s wonderful." ~ Englewood Review of Books

"National Book Award finalist Perkins’ picture book depicts a tale of immigration and adaptation . . . Kolkata-born, Australia-based Naidu’s illustrations are light and full of motion, reinforcing both the book’s tone and its content. Shanti’s expressions, including wonder, frustration, and exhaustion, are particularly emotive.The book will appeal particularly to children and families navigating this space between cultures." ~ Kirkus Reviews 

"Readers will fall in love with Shanti’s earnest desire to belong as well as her obvious delight in the people she knows and the new things she experiences. And Shanti’s solution to her problem, as well as her recognition that 'home is in between' are a fitting end to this sweet picture book. Illustrations add charm and childlikeness to the serious question of belonging." ~ Redeemed Reader

"The book compactly conveys the pressure of juggling and code-switching even if there’s joy to be had in both cultures. There’s a bit of a Dora the Explorer vibe to the cartoonish digital illustrations, which will appeal to viewers, and there are plenty of observant and humorous details; audiences will want to look out for Shanti’s beloved toy blue elephant, who appears alongside her in most scenes." ~ BCCB

What I talk about with kids after reading this book

  • Notice Shanti's emotions in the book. What made her feel mad, scared, sad, or happy?
  • What did Shanti lose by moving to another country?
  • What did she gain?
  • Why was Shanti so tired towards the end of the book?
  • Is "In Between" a real place outside Shanti's apartment or is it a place inside her mind and heart?
  • At the end of the story, why do Shanti and all of her friends and family feel at home "in between"?
  • What are some things inside your home that are different than things in your friends' homes? (food, language, books, manners, clothes, music, etc.)
  • Shanti's relatives in the Bengali village are celebrating "Dol," which is called "Holi" in the rest of India. What festivals do you celebrate? 
  • Do your grandparents live far away?
  • Do you know what languages your great-grandparents spoke? If it's a language that isn't English, do you know any words in that language?
  • Do you ever feel like you're "in between" two different groups of people? Which ones and why?

Activities

  • Find the word for "Friend" in one of the languages spoken by your great-grandparents or in any language other than English. Make a stencil here, print it out, add colors and art, and share it with your friends. You may also ask your parent or teacher to send a picture of it to me.
  • Count how many times Shanti's blue elephant appears in the book. Introduce your favorite stuffie to someone and share why you love it so much.
  • If your great-grandparents came from other countries, find and mark those places on a map of the world. 

About me and this book

Me at Shanti's age
My parents were from the villages of Bengal. They brought me to the United States when I was seven and raised me in a town where we were one of a few families from other countries. I worked hard to understand “American” manners, slang, trends, and rituals—the “code” at school. At the same time, I was trying to stay fluent in traditional Bengali culture and language—the “code” of home. Going back and forth was tiring, and I often felt as if I didn’t belong in either world. But once I grew up, I realized that switching between two codes as a child had been a gift. It’s like learning a new language—kids are faster and better at it than grown-ups. And if we work at it as kids, we keep some ability to crack cultural codes for the rest of our lives. “It’s like a superpower,” I tell young immigrants. The space between cultures doesn’t have to be a barrier; for children who grow up there, it can become a threshold of gratitude to celebrate the best of many worlds. I hope readers make themselves at home in Shanti’s story. Her name in Bangla means “peace.”

Notes on the Design

Some parts of the book are designed so Shanti travels back and forth across the gutter of a two-page spread. To the left are scenes from her apartment, where things are still a lot like the Bengali village of her parents’ childhood, and to the right are scenes in the American town where Shanti is growing up.


Illustrator Lavanya Naidu, who also has has roots in Bengal, created the village scenes in hues of orange, green, and white to hint at the colors of the Indian flag, and depicted the American scenes in blues, purples (blue + red), and pinks (red + white).


My favorite scene comes at the end, when a larger-than-life Shanti, still in the gutter of the book but now clearly in charge of it, celebrates her ability to traverse both worlds fluently.