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Amah Faraway by Margaret Chiu Greanias and illustrated by Tracy Subisak

One lived in Taipei. One lived in San Francisco.

The conversations among my third graders began immediately when I shared the cover of this book.

“My grandma lives in India, and we video chat with her every day!”

“I have one grandma in England and one in China!”

“We Zoom with my grandparents every Saturday.”

Kylie is nervous about visiting Amah who lives faraway in Taipei. She video chats with Amah, but that is different than seeing her in real life. Once they arrive, Kylie’s jitters remain as she and her mother are served nine course meals and taken on grand tours of the city. Kylie trails behind Amah through the park and the market, taking in all the sights.

But on the next day, at the hot springs, something changes. Kylie dips her toe into the warm water and splashes into Amah’s arms. Kylie’s jitters are gone. Now it’s Kylie’s turn to lead Amah through the city and delight in the sites, foods, and family.

The author and illustrator’s collaboration of words, speech bubbles, characters, and vivid colors make this a beautiful and interactive read aloud, but it’s the structure of the story that is brilliant. Margaret Chiu Greanias created a text mirror to show how Kylie’s feelings changed during her visit with Amah. The words leading up to the midpoint are then repeated in reverse order to the ending with only changes in the punctuation and illustrations. Talk about the power of a period or exclamation mark!

This repetition was so amazing to my students that we went through the story two more times to notice the changes.

“At the beginning of the story Kylie was visiting Amah, but at the end Amah is visiting them!”

“She has butterflies at the start because she’s nervous, but at the end her butterflies are because she’s excited!”

“Amah led her through the market in the beginning, but later Kylie leads Amah.”

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