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The topic of immigration, refugees and empathy have been high on my list as of late, probably because the Multicultural Children’s Book Team and I were working diligently to create and release the 2018 Classroom Empathy Kit. We are so proud of how this free kit for parents, caregivers, homeschoolers, educators and librarians turn out! Be sure and download yours by going here.
It also made me recall a wonderful diverse kidlit book I reviewed back in 2013 called Same Sun Here.
How does one mix the topics of mountain top removal (“MTR”) and immigration into one intelligent read for children ?
About Same Sun Here:
This story is about an unlikely friendship between a boy from Kentucky and a girl from India who has recently immigrated to the United States. Through their letters and emails via a pen pal exchange, Meena and River realize they have more in common than not. Both of their fathers are forced to work away from home. They both have grandmothers who mean the world to them and both have true and faithful dogs.
Meena lives in New York City in Chinatown, and River lives in Kentucky coal mining country. With honesty and humor, Meena and River bridge the miles between them and their world views, to create a friendship which inspires and defeats any cultural misconceptions.
Narrated in two voices, each voice written by a talented author, chronicles the lives of two distinctive characters who though very different share their lives under the same sun.
Many years ago I met Silas House at the Appalachian Author Lecture Series which is held at Maryville college each autumn. He was promoting his book Clay’s Quilt at the time. He is such an eloquent writer who captures the heart and minds of his readers. When I saw his name on the cover of Same Sun Here, I bought it with no further investigations. The man does not write a bad book!
In the same token, though I haven’t read any other writings of Neela Vaswani, I look forward to reading more from her as she has a very distinctive and honest writing voice which is authentic and inviting. You can find Same Sun Here on Amazon.
Same Sun Here | About the Authors
Silas House is the nationally best-selling author of Eli the Good as well as the award-winning novels Clay’s Quilt, A Parchment of Leaves, and The Coal Tattoo. He serves as writer in residence at Lincoln Memorial University and lives in eastern Kentucky.
Neela Vaswani, author of Where the Long Grass Bends and You Have Given Me a Country, is an education activist in India and the United States and founder of the Storylines Project with the New York Public Library.
You can also read the first chapter free on Neela’s website:
Same Sun Here | Somethings to Do:
Find a Pen Pal!
Students of the World is a safe way for your child to get a pen-pal online or via snail mail. No personal information is exchanged and all is controlled on the actual site.
River’s Reading List: River is an avid reader. Throughout Same Sun Here he mentions his current reads. Thought you might like to take a look as well.
- A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
- The Spiderwick Chronicles
- Dear Mr. Henshaw
- The Outsiders
- Love that Dog
- Old Yeller
- To Kill A Mockingbird
Mountain Top Removal
Mountaintop removal is a relatively new type of coal mining that began in Appalachia in the 1970s as an extension of conventional strip mining techniques. Primarily, mountaintop removal is occurring in West Virginia, Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee. Coal companies in Appalachia are increasingly using this method because it allows for almost complete recovery of coal seams while reducing the number of workers required to a fraction of what conventional methods require.
The US Environmental Protection Agency defines mountaintop removal as follows:
“Mountaintop removal/valley fill is a mining practice where the tops of mountains are removed, exposing the seams of coal. Mountaintop removal can involve removing 500 feet or more of the summit to get at buried seams of coal. The earth from the mountaintop is then dumped in the neighboring valleys.”
iLoveMountains.org is the product of 14 local, state, and regional organizations across Appalachia that are working together to end mountaintop removal coal mining and create a prosperous future for the region.
After reading Same Sun Here we wanted to investigate into MTR further and watched a documentary called Last Mountain. This movie is haunting when you see the destruction that is being done to our mountains and planet. I would recommend this film for 11 and above. It is imperative that you have a discussion about the movie and what you witnessed. How does it make you feel and what can be done about it ?
Here’s a poem that Meena’s father use to sing to her. She sent this to River in a letter:
“Come,rise, my brothers and sisters,
Save this mountain
Come plant new tress, new forests,
Decorate the Earth.
Meena’s Favorite Indian Meal
Kala dal (Black Lentils)
Raita ( Yogurt)
Spicy Mango Pickles
The above is a general Indian meal. Each item such a chawal or kala dal can be made into a variety of recipes. Please feel free to look for others. Indian cooking is vast and wonderful. There is lots to explore.
Meena Speaks Hindi, You Can Too
Could You Become an American?
Meena’s family throughout Same Sun Here is studying for their American Immigration test. Here are just a few questions that are on the immigration test. See if you can answer them. In the back of the book there are several more questions for you to answer.
- Name one war fought by the United States in the 1900s.
- What did Susan B. Anthony do ?
- What is one thing Benjamin Franklin is famous for ?
- There are thirteen original states. Name three.
- In what year was the Constitution written?
Same Sun Here Discussion Questions
The best way to shed light on difficult or sensitive topics is to create a dialogue. Candlewick Press has created this wonderful and insightful discussion guide which goes along with Same Sun Here.