Rosa’s Song, by Helena Ku Rhee/Illustrated by Pascal Campion, (June 2022, Random House Studio), $17.99, ISBN: 9780593375495
Jae, a young boy from South Korea, and his mother move into a new building in a new country. Missing his home and friends, Jae is withdrawn, but his mother urges him to get out and meet other kids in the building; Jae meets Rosa, a friendly young girl whose pet parrot, Pollito, sits on her shoulder and warbles a sweet song. Rosa and Jae become fast friends, and engage in imaginative play that evokes memories of each of their home countries; scaling sofa mountains and exploring lost Incan cities and rainforests. When Rosa and her family suddenly leave one night, she leaves her parrot to console the heartbroken Jae. Shortly after Rosa leaves, Jae meets two new children in the building, and follows Rosa’s example, becoming their friend and guide to their new home and world. Helena Ku Rhee’s childhood inspired the story, which shows the need for connection and highlights the often erratic home lives of immigrant families, who often have to move suddenly, whether because of immigration status, employment, financial stress, or family issues. Pascal Campion’s digital artwork gives vision to Helen Ku Rhee’s voice: Jae stares out a window at a brick wall while standing in a beige room with faded wallpaper; upon meeting Rosa, his world becomes more colorful. Touches of each child’s home country are represented, with Asian brush paintings decorating the walls of Jae’s home, and colorful parrots and lush green trees in the rainforest of Rosa’s memory. When Rosa leaves, Jae’s world goes gray again, and the portrait of Jae in Rosa’s vacated apartment is absolutely devastating. Endpapers show Rosa and Jae at imaginative play, with Pollito flying around them. A touching and lovely book on empathy and friendship.
Rosa’s Song has a starred review from Booklist.