This book is way too old for me to have purchased from the book sale, but I bought it anyway. I bought it because as an English professor I’ve heard “I hate English!” a lot.

I Hate English! by Ellen Levine, illustrated by Steve Bjorman, is a Scholastic book from 1989. (Yes, I know that is ancient. I know computer programmers born that year.)

The book was not what I was expecting. I was expecting a diatribe about writing or reading. Instead it was literally hating English, the language, about Mei Mei, a Chinese immigrant, who wants to do everything in Chinese, not English. For quite a while she manages to do that, because she lives in a big city with a Chinatown, but in the end a wily ESL teacher gets her to speak English–simply by not letting her have a second to do so!

Mei Mei is a very sympathetic character. I want her to be able to speak Chinese. I don’t want her to have to learn words in English she doesn’t know how to say in Chinese, like “covered wagon.” In the end, however, she needs to and she does. Thankfully she does not just speak English though. At the end she speaks Chinese and English.