An ALA Notable Book for Children
He challenged the Supreme Court on his right to be called citizen—and won
When American-born Wong Kim Ark returns home to San Francisco after a visit to China, he’s stopped and told he cannot enter: he isn’t American. What happens next would forever change the national conversation on who is and isn’t American. After being imprisoned on a ship for months, Wong Kim Ark takes his case to the Supreme Court and argues any person born in America is an American citizen.
I am an American: The Wong Kim Ark Story is an important picture book that introduces young readers to the young man who challenged the Supreme Court for his right to be an American citizen and won, confirming birthright citizenship for all Americans.
Martha Brockenbrough is the author of many books for young readers. he teaches at Vermont College of Fine Arts, blogs for the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators, and founded National Grammar Day. She has worked as a newspaper reporter, a high school teacher, and as editor of MSN.com.
Grace Lin is the award-winning and bestselling author and illustrator of Starry River of the Sky, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, The Year of the Dog, The Year of the Rat, Dumpling Days, and Ling & Ting,as well as picture books such as A Big Bed for Little Snow and A Big Mooncake for Little Star Grace is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design and lives in Massachusetts. Her website is www.gracelin.com.
Julia Kuo is a Taiwanese-American illustrator who has worked with the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Google. She also illustrated The Sound of Silence. Julia has taught illustration courses at Columbia College Chicago and at her alma mater, Washington University in St. Louis. She was the visual arm of Chicago's 2017 March for Science and has had the honor of being an artist-in-residence at Banff Centre for the Arts in 2014 and in 2017.
Julia is currently the recipient of a 2019-2021 Gray Center Mellon Collaborative Fellowship at the University of Chicago.
Praise for I Am An American:
Winner of the Woodson Award?
"The stylized, detailed illustrations create a serious mood for a serious topic."
—School Library Connection"An important and complex period in American history geared to young readers."
"An important picture book biography to augment classroom conversations about immigration and citizenship."
—School Library Journal
Firm resolve in the face of discrimination is the theme of this informative
picture-book biography by Brockenbrough (Unpresidented, rev. 3/19) and Lin (most recently the Storytelling Math series of board books, rev. 11/20). Wong Kim Ark was a young Chinese American cook whose 1898 U.S. Supreme Court case set the legal precedent that birthright citizenship applies to everyone, regardless of their race or ethnic background. The authors cover this overlooked part of American history and early anti-Chinese discrimination by telling the story of Wong’s childhood and teenage years in San Francisco’s Chinatown and the four-month imprisonment he experienced after he was denied reentry into California when returning from a family trip to China. Kuo’s (I Dream of Popo, rev. 5/21) art emphasizes the othering and segregation of Chinese Americans.
For example, the book’s front and back endpapers depict a map of 1885 Chinatown showing the clear delineations between where white and Chinese people lived. Throughout the book, white people are shown wearing brown or black outfits while Chinese people wear red, dark blue, and gray clothing. Only the final double-page spread breaks from the theme of separation, showing a modern scene of children from diverse backgrounds (and wearing a variety of colors) playing together near the Golden Gate Bridge. Back matter includes more details about Wong’s court case, the Fourteenth Amendment, and the continued discrimination he and his family faced, along with a timeline. —Horn Book
"Kuo’s fine-lined digital art, gracefully employing reds, blues, and browns, presents an immersive backdrop to this solid historical primer
, which also resonates in the present day
"...indispensable to any young reader
learning about immigration and being a citizen."—Booklist