Who hasn’t heard the question that forms the title of today’s Perfect Picture Book? I have vivid memories of the first weeks at university when this question could be heard in every classroom, corridor and dormitory. I probably asked it myself. But when a classmate mimicked my accent and posed the question, I confess to wondering if I truly belonged and feeling rather hurt. Luckily, today’s Perfect Picture Book exists to help those now facing that question.
Title: Where Are You From?
Written By: Yamile Saied Méndez
Illustrated By: Jaime Kim
Publisher/Date: Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers/2019
Suitable for Ages: 4-8
Themes/Topics: identity, self-acceptance, family, intergenerational, multicultural
Where are you from? they ask.
Brief Synopsis: A young girl asks her Abuelo, “Where am I from?”
Links to Resources:
- Ask older relatives for information about your family history;
- Create a family tree. Be creative – it doesn’t need to be an actual tree. Our family used flower petals to feature each person in our immediate family. You could use other shapes to highlight features that define each person (sports equipment, animal shapes, etc). Check out some other ideas here or use this printable tree with spaces to include family names and/or pictures.
Why I Like this Book:
In lyrical text, Where Are You From? explores a question that troubles children of mixed heritage who seek to understand why their skin tone or hair or language may be different from those around them. Interestingly, the unnamed narrator asks the question of her Abuelo, not because she notices the differences, but because others ask her, questioning whether she belongs.
I think all children wonder where they’re from, but for children whose features differ in some way from others in their school or community, this is an especially important issue. Thankfully, the young narrator has a wise grandfather who understands his granddaughter’s concerns and reassures her of her family’s love.
Kim’s rich illustrations provide a colorful accompaniment to Méndez’ text, as Abuelo describes the places of origin of the narrator’s ancestors.
A Note about Craft:
In Where Are You From?, Méndez utilizes first person point-of-view, which helps make the story seem more personal. But interestingly, the title and first lines indicate that the narrator reacts to the words of those around her. By using a question as the title and including “you” in that question, Méndez also draws readers into the story and may make them consider their own family or cultural background. It may also help them realize the hurt they cause when they pose this question to someone who differs somehow from the group.
This Perfect Picture Book entry will be added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!