WOW Recommends: I Dream of PoPo


Blackburne, the author of I Dream of PoPo, and Kuo, the illustrator, capture the close bond between a girl and her grandmother in rich text and detailed illustrations. Their story starts in Taiwan where they share precious times together rocking, walking in the park, celebrating New Year’s, eating special foods. Then, the girl and her parents move to San Diego, California. Popo sends the child off with, “Call me every week and tell me about your adventures.” The child reports that she is learning a new language, but misses Popo’s noodles. The granddaughter learns English, “the words form easier on my tongue.” But when she visits Popo the Taiwanese words feel “strange in my mouth.” Yet their hugs are “as tight as before.” When Popo is sick, her granddaughter sings to her and says, “I wish I could reach across the ocean and hold her up.” The story ends with the child dreaming about her Popo.

The author and the illustrator both are Taiwanese Americans. Some of their own experiences are woven into the story and illustrations. In an extensive author’s note at the end, Blackburne writes, “Although I Dream of Popo is fiction, I drew deeply from my own life to write it. Like the main character, I also moved to the United States at a young age, and like her, I found it a big adjustment.” The following link is to a presentation by both the author and the illustrator:
authorhttp://liviablackburne.com/i-dream-of-popo/. The link demonstrates how their insider knowledge is a bonus for the young reader. That knowledge makes the story authentic and powerful. The author uses some Taiwanese words, that contribute to the reader’s understanding. At the end, the child speaks to her Popo in dream: “I say, ‘Ni hao.’/ She Says, ‘Hello.’/ I say, ‘Wo ai ni.’ / She says, ‘I love you too.'” There is a helpful glossary at the end of the book. The illustrator’s note at the end also explains her ties to Taiwan through her family and the culture.

The story has a strong emotional impact on the reader. Even though the girl and her grandmother are separated their ties remain close. The story carefully keeps the child’s perspective. In a two page spread the child’s drawings depicts important words for each place. For Taiwan she shows grandma, home, dumplings, motorcycle, and taxi. For San Diego, she draws school bus, teacher, new house, friend, and palm tree. Each item is labeled with the English and Taiwanese words.

The digital art glows with warm colors and abundant details on some pages. The illustrations extend and compliment the text. A New Year’s Day feast shows many different colorful dishes, another spread illustrates the steps in making the dumplings Popo and her grandchild create together. -Recommended by: Marilyn Carpenter, Professor Emeritus Eastern Washington University.

Title: I Dream of PoPo
Author: Livia Blackburne
Illustrator: Julia Kuo
ISBN: 978-1-250-24931-9
Publisher: Roaring Book Press
PubDate: January 5, 2021

Each month a committee of Worlds of Words advisors recommends a book published within the last year. Our hope is to spark conversations on our website and on social media about the book that expand global understandings and perceptions. Please join us by leaving a comment. You can also share your thoughts with us by using the hashtag #WOWRecommends on social media.

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