In English, of Course

Overview

Set in the Bronx during the 1950s, when postwar immigrant children were placed in their first American classrooms, this delightful story tells of the riotous linguistic misunderstandings of Josephine’s first day of school. The daughter of savvy Italian engineers, Josephine has lived in the city long enough to have learned a few words in English, but is overcome when her teacher makes her stand up in front of the class and tell about her life in Italy—in English, of course. The result is a charming tale of ...

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Overview

Set in the Bronx during the 1950s, when postwar immigrant children were placed in their first American classrooms, this delightful story tells of the riotous linguistic misunderstandings of Josephine’s first day of school. The daughter of savvy Italian engineers, Josephine has lived in the city long enough to have learned a few words in English, but is overcome when her teacher makes her stand up in front of the class and tell about her life in Italy—in English, of course. The result is a charming tale of adventures and multicultural miscommunications as Josephine attempts to make herself understood. Children will come to understand that sometimes people underestimate the talent and dignity of newcomers to the United States and will embark on a poignant journey as Josephine tells her incredible story the best way she knows how and attempts to understand her English-speaking teacher and classmates.

Josephine tries to tell her new American class about her life in Naples, Italy, but her teacher misunderstands what she is saying and thinks she grew up on a farm.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
Josephine, a recent immigrant from Italy, meets her first-day challenges with aplomb in In English, Of Course. Author Josephine Nobisso draws upon her own childhood in the Bronx's Little Italy to create this witty tale of linguistic misunderstanding in a 1950's multicultural classroom. Though Josephine is a cosmopolitan girl, her teacher assumes, a bit condescendingly, that she was raised on a farm. So in "broken English" and with expressive gestures, Josephine relays a hilarious story of her one visit to the country. By the end, teacher and pupil have newfound respect for one another. The final pages reveal Josephine planning her next story—all about her magnificent home city, Naples, and her architectural engineer parents. Josephine, with her can-do attitude, offers young readers (native-born and newcomers alike) a feisty, smart model of the immigrant child. Dasha Ziborova's jazzy collages reinforce this image. 2002, Gingerbread House, Ages 4 to 9.
—Mary Quattlebaum
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3-Josephine is an Italian immigrant whose first day of school is spent exchanging stories with her classmates about their countries of origin. The setting is the Bronx, 1955. Ziborova's mixed-media collages present these moments with vivid imagery, sly humor, and a delightful sense of design. A cutout of Ling-Li, dressed in magenta silk brocade, is surrounded by a photographed dragon sculpture and peony, as well as a painted rickshaw and rice bowl; a Chinese painting with traditional symbols in sepia tones forms the background. Al, who hails from Jupiter, FL, is dressed in a spacesuit and placed in a constellation of dolphins and palm trees. The heroine is sure she can detect his alien accent. Josephine does not know the English words to describe her native Napoli, so she discusses a trip to a farm. Her escapades with a cow and pig, leading to "much river in mouth," are hilariously paced by author and illustrator. As the child enacts the drama, her teacher supplies the unknown words; she is thus able to finish the tale on her own. (Nobisso elaborates on this technique and her writing workshops in a postscript.) All who have struggled to communicate in a group (whether or not they share a common language) will relate to and enjoy this slice of life.-Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A plucky small girl in a new classroom manages to tell a story in English, even though it isn’t quite the one she intended. It’s 1955: Josephine’s teacher asks each student to tell a bit about themselves and where they are from. She listens carefully to Ling-Li and to Juan, but although she understands a lot of English, she’s not sure she has all the words she needs. When she tells the class she is from Napoli, Italia, her teacher asks if she lived on a farm, and she replies, "I go to farm one time." From this single visit, with coaching from her teacher, Josephine reconstructs being kicked by a cow, and the cow pushed by a pig, into a river, and her getting them both out of the water. Josephine’s inventive dialogue captures the sound of a person searching for the shape of the right English word, and her success spurs her to go home to ask her parents how to say "Roman ruins" and "architectural engineers"—in English, of course. Ziborova’s (Crispin the Turtle, not reviewed) exuberant cut-paper and mixed-media collages are a fine foil for the text: Josephine’s elegant male teacher wears pinstripes; pictures and sketches of Naples float over architectural diagrams, and the cow and the pig have comically exaggerated features. Josephine herself wears a ’50s schoolgirl suit and a beret, and her quicksilver expressions might remind one of the illimitable Eloise. An author’s postscript relates Josephine’s story to the author’s own life as a child in Little Italy in the Bronx, but any child will respond to the joy of Josephine’s storytelling. (Picture book. 5-8)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780940112070
  • Publisher: Gingerbread House
  • Publication date: 6/2/2002
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 4 years
  • Product dimensions: 12.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.38 (d)

Meet the Author

Josephine Nobisso is the author of 17 books, including Grandpa Loved, Grandma’s Scrapbook, and Shh! The Whale is Smiling. She lives in Quogue, New York. Dasha Ziborova is the illustrator of Crispin the Terrible. She lives in New York City.

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