A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
In a fun, cartoony way, this book captures what if feels like to be thrown into a situation (in this case first day of school) where you don't speak the language and every word you hear sounds like gibberish. Includes an optional challenge to decode the picture symbols that represent different letters in the English language and translate the speech bubbles filled with "gibberish" to find out what's being said in English.
Don't give up, even when things look hopeless. If you see someone's struggling, reach out to that person and find a way to help. Hard things are easier with the help of a friend. If you don't speak the same language, you can try to communicate in another way.
Positive Role Models
Dat tries his best at his new school, gets discouraged, and feels isolated but doesn't give up, showing perseverance. Julie reaches out to Dat with empathy and finds a way to communicate with him -- through pictures they draw together -- and they become friends. Each kid's mom is kind and supportive.
Centers an Asian boy how who has immigrated to an English-speaking country. On his first day of school, his school bus driver, teacher, and classmates are all English speakers who are drawn as black-and-white cartoon characters, some of which appear as animals or non-human creatures. Julie, the girl who befriends him, and her mom are White.
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Parents Need to Know
Parent sneed to know that author-illustrator Young Vo's Gibberish tells story of an Asian boy named Dat on his first day at school in an English-speaking country. He doesn't speak the language, so when he hears the school bus driver, the teacher, and his fellow students speak, it sounds like gibberish to him -- just a bunch of sounds that he doesn't understand. Then a classmate named Julie reaches out to him on the playground and finds a way to communicate through drawings, and his frustrating situation turns around: He starts to learn English and makes a new friend. Vo's ability to show Dat's isolation and changing emotions is clever and imaginative, with the English speakers looking like strange black-and-white cartoon characters, while Dat and his mom are represented in realistic full color. As soon as Dat feels comfortable and Julie becomes his friend, she and her mom appear in full color, too. This brilliant expression of a common immigrant experience models empathy and communication and ends on a very positive note. And kids will be drawn to the kid-friendly illustrations.
Is It Any Good?
This extraordinary picture book shows kids how it feels to be an immigrant when everything is new and strange, especially the new country's language. The story draws on author-illustrator Young Vo's own experience as an immigrant to the United States from Vietnam. Gibberish also shows how reaching out to someone in that situation can be life-changing for them. Julie finds a way to communicate with Dat through pictures. Vo has said in interviews that's how he learned English.
This is a very special, accessible picture book that teaches empathy and the value of communication -- in one way or another.
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Our Editors Recommend
Kids' Books About the Immigrant Experience
Books with Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander Characters
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