I Am an American: The Wong Kim Ark Story

by Martha Brockenbrough (Author) Julia Kuo (Illustrator)

I Am an American: The Wong Kim Ark Story
Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

He challenged the Supreme Court on his right to be called citizen--and won

When American-born Wong Kim Ark returns home to San Francisco after a visit to China, he's stopped and told he cannot enter: he isn't American. What happens next would forever change the national conversation on who is and isn't American. After being imprisoned on a ship for months, Wong Kim Ark takes his case to the Supreme Court and argues any person born in America is an American citizen.

I am an American: The Wong Kim Ark Story is an important picture book that introduces young readers to the young man who challenged the Supreme Court for his right to be an American citizen and won, confirming birthright citizenship for all Americans.

School Library Journal

K-Gr 4--Wong Kim Ark was born in San Francisco in 1873 and knew he was an American. He had never lived anywhere else. Then the Chinese Exclusion Act passed in 1882, hindering immigration, job opportunities, and eventual citizenship for Chinese people in the United States. Violence toward Chinese people became even more commonplace, and Ark's parents went back to China. After visiting his family in China, Ark was detained from entering the country, despite being born in America. He won the lawsuit in San Francisco to be freed, but this did not apply to the U.S. government, so he brought the case to the Supreme Court. His victory guaranteed citizenship to all of those born in the U.S. This detailed picture book biography introduces readers to a historical figure who changed birthright citizenship laws. The digitally rendered artwork fills each spread, and its detailed imagery gives insight into life in San Francisco's Chinatown in the late 1880s and early 1900s. Endpapers include an 1885 neighborhood map of Chinatown, outlining Chinese-occupied, white-occupied, and vacant areas, to give a clearer picture of the city's population. Back matter features photos and a time line starting with 1849, when the first large group of Chinese immigrants began to settle in the U.S., to the 1965 Immigration and Naturalization Act. VERDICT An important picture book biography to augment classroom conversations about immigration and citizenship.--Kristyn Dorfman, Friends Academy, Locust Valley, NY

Copyright 2021 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

The stylized, detailed illustrations create a serious mood for a serious topic.School Library Connection
Martha Brockenbrough
Martha Brockenbrough is the author of many books for young readers. he teaches at Vermont College of Fine Arts, blogs for the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators, and founded National Grammar Day. She has worked as a newspaper reporter, a high school teacher, and as editor of MSN.com.

Grace Lin is the award-winning and bestselling author and illustrator of Starry River of the Sky, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, The Year of the Dog, The Year of the Rat, Dumpling Days, and Ling & Ting, as well as picture books such as A Big Bed for Little Snow and A Big Mooncake for Little Star Grace is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design and lives in Massachusetts. Her website is www.gracelin.com.

Julia Kuo is a Taiwanese-American illustrator who has worked with the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Google. She also illustrated The Sound of Silence. Julia has taught illustration courses at Columbia College Chicago and at her alma mater, Washington University in St. Louis. She was the visual arm of Chicago's 2017 March for Science and has had the honor of being an artist-in-residence at Banff Centre for the Arts in 2014 and in 2017.
Julia is currently the recipient of a 2019-2021 Gray Center Mellon Collaborative Fellowship at the University of Chicago.

Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
November 20, 2021
ALSC Notable Children's Book
Selection 2022

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