review: Hello World
Hello World written and illustrated by Manya Stojic. Scholastic, 2002 (0-439-36202-4) OOP (scheduled to be reprinted in paperback in 2009; many used copies available online)
This picture book could hardly be simpler, yet grabbed me instantly with its potential to inspire interesting discussions about language. Aside from a short introduction, each page is just a large illustration of child's smiling face, the word "hello" in an identified non-English language, and a phonetic spelling. But the way the words are grouped makes it very easy to see intriguing similarities in spelling and/or pronunciation between different languages. Several African, Indian and Asian languages are grouped to show the complete opposite -- that their words for hello are totally disparate from each other. The historica, political and geographic reasons for all this may be too complex to share with young children, but just the idea that even people from the same country may not speak the same language is a useful one. There's an index of languages but unfortunately no information on where each one is spoken.
Fingerpaint style illustrations focus entirely on the children, each of whom is visually distinctive in some small way. I particularly like the vast variety in skin tones; no child looks exactly like another. There's no other detail, and for the most part Stojic avoided outfitting the characters in any ethnically typical (or stereotypical) ways, keeping the focus on what they have in common: their welcoming smiles. (2-4)