Congratulations to Debora Pearson whose book MY WORDS FLEW AWAY LIKE BIRDS (Kids Can Press, illustrated by Shrija Jain) is an USBBY Outstanding International Books List for 2022! The List honours the best books for young people published during the calendar year that originated or were originally published outside the United States.


A frank and optimistic picture book about learning to live in a new language.―Kirkus Reviews, starred review

Jain contributes doodle-like pen and ink artwork … in this approachable, empathic tale.―Publishers Weekly

… demonstrates the complexities and meanings found within language and how difficult that can be to understand.―School Library Connection


A poetically told immigration story that fosters understanding and beautifully articulates how the desire to belong and the need for human connection are universal.

A little girl learns some words in a new language to prepare for her move to a new country. But when she, her mother and her father arrive, “all her words fly away like birds.” The girl waits, and watches, and listens, trying to figure things out. Only, it’s hard. Then one day the girl meets someone who needs her help. And as she makes a new friend, she finds that the new words start to come easier — becoming her words, at last. Beautifully written in engaging and accessible free verse, this poignant story offers a powerful lesson in empathy for children everywhere.

The story is inspired by the many newcomer families Debora Pearson has met in her work as a children’s librarian in a bustling urban center. Both timely and universal, it provides young children with an opportunity to expand their worldview and be inspired by how the heroine prevails and finds connection. Shrija Jain’s simple, whimsical illustrations add playfulness and warmth to the narrative. A perfect read-aloud, this sweet and sensitive picture book encourages all children to celebrate inclusion and highlights the character education traits of resilience, kindness and empathy. There are links here to social studies lessons on community, global awareness and cultural awareness.

Debora Pearson works as a children’s librarian in Toronto, Ontario, and is the author of numerous books for children. Debora is represented by Amy Tompkins.

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