Review of The Words We Share

The Words We Share /The Words We Share /
by Jack Wong; illus. by the author
Primary, Intermediate    Annick    40 pp.
9/23    9781773217970    $22.99

In this heartfelt tale, young Angie becomes a vital bridge between her Cantonese-speaking dad and their new home in Canada. She frequently aids her father in navigating various situations, such as ordering meals and crafting signs for his janitorial job. Soon, Angie identifies a business opportunity—creating English signs for the Chinese-speaking business owners in their neighborhood. Her initial projects include a sandwich board for Ms. Fong’s canteen and a stern warning sign for the recalcitrant customers of Ms. Lim’s shoe-repair shop. However, a hurdle arises when the laundromat owner, Mr. Chu, voices dissatisfaction with Angie’s work. This hiccup morphs into a golden moment, as her father speaks with Mr. Chu in his language (Hakka), unveiling linguistic knowledge that surprises Angie and strengthens their bond. This narrative gracefully illustrates the ties that bind a community and positions language as a potent tool that can both separate and unify people, transforming potential misunderstandings into opportunities for growth, collaboration, and even humor. The story is brought to life with cartoon-style art and bilingual dialogues, represented through simplified Chinese characters and italicized English, offering readers a rich, multicultural experience. This tale presents a hopeful perspective on immigrant life, vividly portraying resilience, a spirit of community, and the enduring bond of family, making it a poignant and uplifting read. An author’s note explains the story’s linguistic context, highlighting the presence of different Chinese languages with some linguistic similarities.

From the November/December 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Weileen Wang
You-Ling (Weileen) Wang loves to write, read, and illustrate. She attended Vanderbilt University, where she studied child development and fell in love with children's literature. She holds a master's degree in arts in education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

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