Continental Drifter

First Second. Apr. 2024. 224p. $22.99. ISBN 9781250813732.
Gr 5-8–Kathy isn’t quite sure who she is. She loves parts of her life in Thailand while missing her favorite things in the United States. She loves being in America but struggles to find the right group of friends and ways to blend in with the culture. Kathy explains that sometimes, “the outside doesn’t match what’s inside.” Watching her parents and sister navigate their two homes differently adds to her confusion, and each home’s location has its benefits and drawbacks. As her sister grows up and becomes more distant, Kathy’s sense of isolation increases. She turns to her diary to try to process the challenges and insecurities she faces, but even the kind kids can seem mean when they don’t understand or know the real Kathy. As with all families, the dynamics in Kathy’s have their ups and downs—growing apart while forming deeper understandings. The illustrations are simple and straightforward, helping readers understand Kathy’s thoughts and feelings. Everyone who has been embarrassed by themselves or their family will relate to Kathy’s shyness and will appreciate her tender realizations as she finds her path in both of her worlds. Educators looking for books to build empathy may find several helpful scenes throughout. It also lends itself to geography extension activities.
VERDICT Continental Drifter offers honest, sometimes painful, insight into growing up as part of two cultures and will help anyone who has ever felt lonely in their own family, or even with friends, process the emotions that come with trying to fit in.

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