Janine Schall, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Edinburg, TX, and Jeanne Fain, Lipscomb University, Nashville, TN
This month in My Take/Your Take, Janine Schall and Jeanne Fain focus their discussions on the picture book The Day Saida Arrived by Susana Gómez Redondo and Sonja Wimmer, translated from the original Spanish by Lawrence Schimel. Along the way we’ll highlight related books.
In our second installment, Janine and Jeanne talk about the relationship of the two main characters.
JANINE: The Day Saida Arrived features a strong relationship between the narrator and Saida. Saida has immigrated from Morocco and does not speak English. The narrator, who remains unnamed, believes that Saida has “lost all her words”. She’s concerned about Saida’s silence and offers a welcome and friendship.
JEANNE: I also love the relationship between Saida and her new friend.
Janine: I’ve read this book multiple times. The first time I read it I was really focused on the visual impact and absolutely fell in love with the gorgeous illustrations. On my second reading I paid more attention to the text. At that point I had a pretty negative reaction to the beginning of the book because I felt the story was all about the white, native-born girl fixing the immigrant child.
Jeanne: At first, I felt that they really seemed to be good friends and were mutually helping each other. Then, after another look, it seems that her friend was actually taking on the responsibility of teaching Saida the school norms as Saida was learning English. And I questioned myself about if Saida really needed the help and if the friendship was equitable.
Janine: The main conflict in the book is that Saida does not speak English, but the book is completely told through the white, English-speaking girl’s perspective.
In my initial readings, I had a lot of questions about their friendship. It seemed to me that the main character was falling into white-savior mode and here was another book with the white character having all the power. However, I’ve come back around to appreciating their relationship. While the story does start out with the narrator trying to fix Saida’s silence by finding her words, their relationship quickly became equal. The narrator and Saida teach each other their respective languages and cultures. They are equally student and teacher, and both languages and cultures are valued in all their interactions. They develop a lovely, caring friendship.
However, I would like to see this book paired with others that are told from an immigrant perspective. For example, in Dreamers, Yuyi Morales tells the story of her own immigration experience, including learning English. The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi is another book told from the point of view of a young girl who has moved from Korea to the United States.
Other Children’s Literature Cited
Choi, Y. (2003). The name jar. Dragonfly Books.
Morales, Y. (2018). Dreamers. Holiday House.
Title: The Day Saida Arrived
Author: Susana Gómez Redondo
Illustrator: Sonja Wimmer
Translator: Lawrence Schimel
Publisher: Blue Dot
PubDate: 2020 (English edition)
Throughout May 2021, Janine Schall and Jeanne Fain discuss different aspects of The Day Saida Arrived. Check back each Wednesday to follow the conversation!