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Jan G. Hansen

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No More Empty Smiles    

Written by Jan G. Hansen

Illustrated by Jennifer Falconer

On Henning's first day of school in his new country he can't understand the teacher or the other students.  He finds the resources inside himself to learn their language.

 

"[ESL teachers] were greatly inspired by your book!  You must know it moved them deeply."     ~ Wendy Campbell, ESL teacher, Waterloo Region District School Board

From the book

On my first day of school in my new country, Mom walked John, Else Marie and me to school.  When we got there, the three of us stared through the school yard fence while she walked back and forth behind us.

I rested one palm on my little sister's shoulder and the other on my little brother's head.  I did not want them to see my hands shake.

The children in the yard called to each other in a language that I did not understand.

I tried to swallow. 

My mouth was dry.

Click here for free teacher ideas for using No More Empty Smiles.

Where did the story come from?

Henning Hansen was my father.  He came to Canada when he was twelve years old not knowing any English.  As I was growing up he told me about his childhood, including about learning to speak English.  Many of those stories helped shape the book No More Empty Smiles.  The only part that I added was when some other kids didn't know what to make of my Dad's lunch.  That may have happened to him, but he never told me about it.  At my school last year, however, a boy made fun of a girl because she brought a different lunch.  The boy never really understood how the girl was feeling.  I added that moment to my Dad's story, changing the food to be something that my Dad might have eaten.

Learning how to speak a new language was hard for my Dad.  He felt lonely because he had trouble speaking to the children around him.  I see many children who are new to Canada that have the same feeling.  That is why I wrote the story.  I want people to understand what it feels like to be unable to talk to the people around you, and how it takes strength to be the new kid in town.