Book Review: A New Home – can I play in a new city?

By Tania de Regil, Candlewick Press, 2019

Last week we ventured to Kingston, NY, and, as well as a trip on the Catskill Mountain Railroad, we discovered the delights of Rough Draft bar & books, promising beer, books, wine, coffee and pies all under one roof. (So glad to be exploring book shops again! More here.) The coffee was certainly excellent, and we came away with some serendipitous finds for the children, including Tania de Regil’s charming picture book, A New Home.

A boy is moving from New York City to Mexico City, and a girl is moving from Mexico City to NYC – together they tell this story, speaking in one voice as they share their thoughts of home and fears of moving away. By juxtaposing the illustrations of each city so that the children speak with one voice, the text relates to both, and they echo and reassure each other as the reflections unfold.

The book acts as an introduction to two great cities, a child’s eye view of what a city needs, and recognises the similarities of a child’s experience – music in the street, snack food on the way home from school, sports, arts, museums, somewhere to play and friends to play with. It acknowledges that each city ‘can be hard on some people’ and noisy with traffic – noting without dwelling on some of the harsher aspects of city life. In general, this book focuses on the similar experiences and interests of two children from different places but with much in common.

As we read through, there’s lots of detail to notice in the pictures, the children travelling everywhere with their special toys. ‘Do you think she’ll find somewhere to play?’ I ask my three-year old. She points to the picture of the boy iceskating in Central Park. ‘She can play there,’ she says, ‘and he can play there,’ pointing to the girl cycling in Bosque de Chapultepec (Chapultepec Park). There are notes at the back to accompany each illustration, introducing key aspects of the cities.

It’s a sweet, simple story about two children who may never meet, but have much in common. And in that it shows that whether we stay in our home town or move to live across the world, we aren’t that different, just as children’s needs don’t change much from city to city: a home, an education, places to learn and play, and friends to play with.

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