Modern Immigrant Experience in Fiction Picture Books: Tía Isa Wants a Car by Meg Medina & A Piece of Home by Jeri Watts


These two fiction picture books look at modern immigrant experiences from two different lenses; however, they both have one thing in common–search for identity in a new home.

a piece of home

A Piece of Home
Author: Jeri Watts
Illustrator: Hyewon Yum
Published June 14th, 2016 by Candlewick Press

Summary: A child-friendly story about the trials and triumphs of starting over in a new place while keeping family and traditions close.

When Hee Jun’s family moves from Korea to West Virginia, he struggles to adjust to his new home. His eyes are not big and round like his classmates’, and he can’t understand anything the teacher says, even when she speaks s-l-o-w-l-y and loudly at him. As he lies in bed at night, the sky seems smaller and darker. But little by little Hee Jun begins to learn English words and make friends on the playground. And one day he is invited to a classmate’s house, where he sees a flower he knows from his garden in Korea — mugunghwa, or rose of Sharon, as his friend tells him — and Hee Jun is happy to bring a shoot to his grandmother to plant a “piece of home” in their new garden. Lyrical prose and lovely illustrations combine in a gentle, realistic story about finding connections in an unfamiliar world.

My Thoughts: I love the way Hee Jun’s story is told–full of emotions. It is so realistic and a story that so many students will relate to. The story also highlights the struggles and success of all the members of Hee Juns family including his sister and grandmother. And the conclusion of the story will warm your heart!

tia isa

Tía Isa Wants a Car
Author: Meg Medina
Illustrator: Claudio Muñoz
Published June 14th, 2011 by Candlewick Press

Summary: A little girl pitches in to help her tía save up for a big old car – and take the whole family to the beach – in a story told with warmth and sweetness.

Tía Isa wants a car. A shiny green car the same color as the ocean, with wings like a swooping bird. A car to take the whole family to the beach. But saving is hard when everything goes into two piles – one for here and one for Helping Money, so that family members who live far away might join them someday. While Tía Isa saves, her niece does odd jobs for neighbors so she can add her earnings to the stack. But even with her help, will they ever have enough? Meg Medina’s simple, genuine story about keeping in mind those who are far away is written in lovely, lyrical prose and brought to life through Claudio Muñoz’s charming characters.

My Thoughts: Tía Isa symbolizes all people who move to a new place and have something they want and they go and get it. Even as they save money to send to their family who has yet to join them, Tía Isa and her niece save money for their dream and independence which to them is a car to be able to visit the beach like Tía Isa did at home. This book will touch anyone who has fought financially or without family and have survived!

What other picture books highlight the modern immigrant experience? 

Kellee Signature

**Thank you to Candlewick Press for providing copies of the books!**

1 thought on “Modern Immigrant Experience in Fiction Picture Books: Tía Isa Wants a Car by Meg Medina & A Piece of Home by Jeri Watts”

  1. I adore Tia Isa! I once heard Meg Medina talk about the book, and it is based on her own aunt–she even showed us family snapshots! I love the power that comes from real family stories ending up in books.


Leave a Comment