Twenty years ago, the goddaughters of Pulitzer Prize-winner Junot Díaz (The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao; This Is How You Lose Her) asked him to write a book about kids like them: curious, creative children whose families had "crossed continents to get where they are at." With Islandborn, Díaz's first work of fiction for children, he delivers.

When a teacher asks her students--all of whom are from "faraway places"--to draw a picture of their country of origin, Lola is worried. She can't remember the island she left as a baby. At her teacher's suggestion, she talks to her "Islandborn" neighbors and learns about bats "as big as blankets," mangoes so sweet "[t]hey make you want to cry" and people and houses and flowers in all the colors of the rainbow. But when she asks Mr. Mir, her building's superintendent, about the island, he has a darker story to tell, about the "monster" that terrorized the island for 30 years, "destroy[ing] an entire town with a single word and mak[ing] a whole family disappear simply by looking at it."

Lola's final drawing is a beautiful blend of the wonders and horrors and hope of the island that is never named but is understood by savvy and sharp-eyed readers to be the Dominican Republic. Leo Espinosa's bright illustrations are filled with depth and layers and eye-absorbing details of life in the Caribbean and in Lola's northern U.S. city. New generations of kids from "somewhere else" will delight in seeing their own cultures, history and faces reflected in Islandborn. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor

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