Immigrants to a new country face multiple challenges. The picture book, Goyangi Means Cat (written by Christine McDonnell and illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher, Penguin Group, 2011), takes this theme one step further by telling a story in the third person about a Korean girl, Soo Min, who is adopted by an American family.
The reader is immediately able to commiserate with Soo Min’s plight. The author highlights the frustrations of second language learners as they attempt to communicate in a foreign language and also shows the girl’s transition to American culture. To add to the authenticity of the story, several Korean words are transliterated and defined. These words are interspersed throughout the text.
Soo Min’s tender relationship with her cat, Goyangi, is the central focus of the story. Children reading this book should be able to connect with Soo Min when Goyangi temporarily disappears. These feelings of sadness can then be compared with the feelings associated with leaving behind one’s former life. Even though the cat’s situation was short term and nowhere as intense as relocating thousands of miles, the sense of loss and bewilderment can be appreciated and understood.
Steve and Lou have jointly illustrated books for decades. The diversity of Soo Min’s world- both Eastern and Western culture- are aptly displayed in the assortment of patterns and colors that the artists use and the Korean words that are integrated into the pictures. The relationship between Soo Min and her new parents and Soo Min and Goyangi are captured in the illustrations.
- immigration- adapting to a new culture
- learning a new language
- communicating with people who speak different languages
- living outside one’s comfort zone
- relationship with pets
- attachments to a faraway culture
- traditional foods and clothing
- Can people appreciate the struggles of an individual trying to adapt to a new culture if they have never experienced a similar situation?