THE ONE GOOD THING ABOUT AMERICA for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

Living in America after fleeing another country is full of challenges. Just ask Anaïs who arrives in the U.S. from Africa with her mother and younger brother. She’s full of questions about the language, food, and strange customs we Americans don’t even think twice about.

This eye opening tale is told through letters Anaïs writes to her beloved grandmother. She worries not only about her Oma, but also about Papa and an older brother who stayed behind amidst the chaos in the Congo. Her grandmother asks that Anaïs find one good thing about America to share in each of her letters. When the story begins in September she can’t come up with much, but as the school year progresses, taking us all the way to June, she finds many things to her liking.

We also get a glimpse of other immigrants—an Iraqi boy and a girl from Somali. Don’t expect a full rounded story that answers every plot point. It just isn’t possible in the 10 months covered as the subject would require many more years for a full understanding.

Honest and heartfelt, the author knows the subject well herself as a teacher of English Language Learners (ELL). This quick read will give readers a little more compassion to the plight of so many. It’s an important story for all of us to see how difficult life is for a family immigrating to another country.


FULL PLOT (From HOLIDAY HOUSE) It’s hard to start at a new school . . . especially if you’re in a new country. Back home, Anaïs was the best English student in her class. Here in Crazy America she feels like she doesn’t know English at all. Nothing makes sense (chicken FINGERS?), and the kids at school have some very strange ideas about Africa. Anais misses her family . . . so she writes lots of letters to Oma, her grandmother. She tells her she misses her and hopes the war is over soon. She tells her about Halloween, snow, mac ‘n’ cheese dinners, and princess sleepovers. She tells her about the weird things Crazy Americans do, and how she just might be turning into a Crazy American herself.


  1. A great choice for teachers with an ELL student in their classroom. It could be read out loud to give insights into the struggles these students face.
  2. The humor comes out as Anaïs seeks to understand. Just the phrase “cutting in line’ can bring a whole day of confusion.
  3. Hurray for ELL teachers who often stay with the same students for several years. In fact, the author notes it takes five to seven years for a child new to America to become fluent in both basic and academic English.
  4. A glossary is provided in the back with the word Anaïs hears, followed by the word she will eventually come to know. For instance: Batroom—Bathroom.
  5. A welcoming and timely story for our times.


Dear Oma,

Here is one little letter before I go to bed. It is about one more crazy thing they do here in America! Every day in school we pray like in my school at home. But we pray to the flag. Over the loud box comes voices of students and we say with them words about the God that is invisible. This is one word I know now. Invisible. Miss say it mean something we don’t see. Sometimes I think I will like to be invisible very much. They do not say Amen. They say Please Be Seated Thank You And Have a Nice Day. Many people in America say Have A Nice Day all the time. Maybe it is the crazy America way for Amen. I do not know.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR : Ruth Freeman grew up in rural Pennsylvania but now lives in Maine where she teaches students who are English language learners, including many newly arrived immigrants. She is the author of several acclaimed nonfiction picture books. One Good Thing About America is her first novel.


Make a comment if you have time. I enjoy reading all of them. Click on the comments link below.

Check the links to other Middle Grade novels over at Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.


About Greg Pattridge

Climbing another mountain...always striving to reach the next peak in my life and career.
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11 Responses to THE ONE GOOD THING ABOUT AMERICA for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

  1. This sounds like a great story about immigrants from a child’s perspective. We really can’t imagine what it would be like to leave your family and country to move here. Books like this give us and kids who see children enter their schools as immigrants some perspective on this.

  2. Andrea Mack says:

    I’d love to read this! I’m especially intrigued after reading the snippet from the story. Thanks for featuring this one. I will look for it!

  3. Certainly a timely book and so important these days. English is a difficult language to learn. There are so many odd words and phrases, and so many rules and exceptions to the rules. I have thought before how crazy chicken fingers must sound to someone learning the language, but never thought of how confusing “cutting in line” would be.

  4. Dorine White says:

    Nice. I haven’t heard of this one.

  5. This sounds like a terrific book for middle-graders. They need to learn tolerance and understanding. Great choice, Greg. Thanks for the post.

  6. This sounds delightful! I’m already a fan of Anais, based on nothing more than your introduction. Thanks for the recommend, and happy MMGM!

  7. You know I’d love to read this story! I love the humor. The quote you shared was priceless! Thank you so much for the recommendation. We need more books like this!

  8. I’m looking forward to featuring this novel on Thursday, as part of Ruth’s blog tour!

  9. Always good to have more books about immigrant experiences; I love that this one focusses on language. Because it’s all about communication, isn’t it?

  10. Violet Tiger says:

    I recently read this and I enjoyed it a lot! It shows a unique perspective on moving to America, especially when searching for asylum. I would recommend it to younger readers, but some of the spelling might confuse them. Thanks for your review!

  11. Pingback: MY CYBILS PICKS FOR MIDDLE GRADE FICTION | Always in the Middle…

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