The Place Where You Live by James Luna is an easy-to-read attractive picture book with a universal message of what makes a place a home. The simple rhyming text contains a recurring refrain and feels comfortable to read. Vibrant illustrations lovingly celebrate families and neighborhoods. In addition, although I would have appreciated seeing even more of them, there are some multicultural elements.
On one level, this is a pleasant and enjoyable book. The first page contains just this opening line: “This is the place where you live.” Each subsequent page expands on that sentiment. The place where you live comes alive in the morning with hot chocolate and warm foods. It includes the family garden, neighbors, the store across the street, as well as of course school. It also includes after school recreation in the form of libraries, parks, baseball fields, and even a street vendor. The place where you live also winds down in the evening with the yard, the porch, and the loving arms of family. Each spread contains a soft-pink background and boasts cheery folks and blue skies. Over all, wonderful thoughts wrapped in warm colors!
All these compliments aside, there are other aspects to consider. First, will this book stand out in a sea of other picture books? For younger readers, I think an overwhelming yes. The limited text, reassuring repetition of the line “here in the place where you live,” and the lavish colors should have high appeal. Older readers, who have not yet graduated on to chapter books, might wish for more of a story line.
Second, as a reviewer of multicultural books, I have to wonder about the diversity. English text is placed at the top, followed by Spanish text (which according to Kirkus Reviews is a direct translation and loses its rhymed format) at the bottom. The breakfast menu includes tortilla, but otherwise the majority of the foods are American. In fact, nothing about the text really stands out as being diverse. The place where you live could be my neighborhood, your neighborhood, or the neighborhood of the author or the illustrator.
The Place Where You Live was chosen by Texas children as the winner of the 2012 Tajas Star Book Award. Books on the award list are intended to encourage children ages 5-12 to explore multicultural books and to discover the cognitive and economic benefits of bilingualism and multilingualism. The Place Where You Live is a light-hearted picture book that doesn’t particularly teach anything about other cultures, but will positively promote the feeling of belonging to a community and to family.
My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.
How would you rate this book?