New Words, New Friends
Written by Karen Nemeth
Illustrated by Diego Jiménez Manzano
Paperback and ebook
Available in English and Spanish
Review by Sue Kwon
Theo and Wyatt, two friends at school, are at the center of “New Words, New Friends,” the latest children’s book from Karen Nemeth, a national expert on early education and advocate for dual-language learners. Theo and Wyatt play just fine together, until their paths cross with that of the New Kid. “The New Kid got the ball and bounced it away. ‘Hey, You!’ cried the boys, ‘we need the ball to play!” As we know, there is no greater offense for young children.
Little ones can sometimes get upset when reading about or seeing an emotionally charged situation like this. Yet Nemeth narrates this story with a sweet, uplifting rhyming style that allows kids to understand the important aspects of the plot without prodding any negative emotions. The lines are kept brief and concise – something adults will appreciate when kids ask to hear the book again and again. (And with this one, they will.)
The story’s characters, brought to life by Spanish illustrator Diego Jiménez Manzano, are drawn in a bold, playful, childlike style. The characters have round faces and big, bright eyes that are sure to please young readers. Jiménez Manzano also takes the time to fill each page’s background with small, colorful details, so there will be something new for kids to find on multiple readings.
In the story, Theo and Wyatt are lucky to have a knowledgeable, nurturing teacher who takes the time to explain why the New Kid behaves the way she does: She speaks another language, and didn’t understand what they were saying to her. The teacher tells them, “‘When a friend speaks a language that’s different than you, these are three things you can easily do.'” Thanks to her thoughtful guidance, a brand new friendship is able to grow between Theo, Wyatt and the New Kid, who we find out is named Violet. This story is about the importance of kindness and empathy when interacting with people from different backgrounds.
While “New Words, New Friends” is a book that kids will love reading, Nemeth also intends it to be “a storybook resource for teachers, librarians and parents.” The end of the book features Discussion Questions to help adults get their kids thinking and talking about the important lessons in the story. This book is meant to be a guide for adults who are helping little ones navigate the tricky yet essential journey of learning social and communication skills. “New Words, New Friends” delves into these important tasks, and presents it in a fun way, for both adults and children.
“New Words, New Friends” is available in English and Spanish, in paperback and ebook on Amazon.com.
Be sure to check out languagecastle.com, Karen Nemeth’s website that offers a wealth of resources for anyone who teaches young children who speak different languages.