Librarian, Author Tackles Story of Immigrant Student


(Sunday, January 13, 2008 9:38 AM EST)

Coming to the United States and not speaking English can be a challenge for immigrants, but how can English-speakers reach out to them if they don't share the same language?

Take a read of Arlington resident Jacqueline Jules' new picture book, “No English,” and you may get a few ideas.

In the book, Jules tells the story of Blanca, a new student who has just moved from Argentina, and Diane, a student who wants become friends with Blanca, but doesn't know how, since Blanca doesn't speak English.

After a few missteps on Diane's part, the two figure out how to communicate with each other and become best buds.

“It's a story of making friends,” Jules said. “It's not always easy making friends with a newcomer.”

Jules, who is a librarian at Timberlane Elementary School in Falls Church, was inspired to write the story of one of the students, who would come to the library every day but would say, “No English,” whenever Jules would try to talk to her. Over time, through pantomime, the two were able to build a relationship.

The character of Diane is modeled on Jules and her experiences working in a school with a very diverse student body, trying to reach out to non-English speakers. Jules also was influenced by her upbringing as the daughter of a Swiss immigrant.

“Lots of [other] stories are from the point of view of the immigrant, and these books are wonderful, but I wanted to write from a different viewpoint,” she said. “I hope the story is a model. We need to think about how to reach out to newcomers.”

Since its publication, Jules said she has been touched by the positive reception of the book. Timberlane's principal, who believes the story's message exemplifies the school's “culture of working hard to accept and embrace everyone,” bought a copy of the book for every teacher in the school.

“No English” is Jules' eighth book, and she has more coming out in the near future.

Although Jules works full-time as Timberlane's librarian, she devotes between 20 and 25 hours a week to her writing, and is very excited that her work is finding acceptance.

“I wanted to be a writer because I love to read, and I want to give people the same pleasure I've had,” Jules said. “It's a way of giving back. To reach an audience is a great privilege.”

“No English” can be found at Aladdin's Lamp Children's Bookstore in Arlington, and can be ordered online.

For more information on Jacqueline Jules, see the Web site at

Jacqueline Jules, who lives in Arlington, has written the new book, "No English."

Return to index of articles