My Mother's Tongues: A Weaving of Languages (Hardcover)

My Mother's Tongues: A Weaving of Languages By Uma Menon, Rahele Jomepour Bell (Illustrator) Cover Image

My Mother's Tongues: A Weaving of Languages (Hardcover)


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In a sparkling debut authored by a sixteen-year-old daughter of immigrants, this ode to the power of multilingualism gives voice to the lasting benefits of speaking with more than one tongue.

Sumi’s mother can speak two languages, Malayalam and English. And she can switch between them at the speed of sound: one language when talking to Sumi’s grandmother, another when she addresses the cashier. Sometimes with Sumi she speaks a combination of both. Could it be she possesses a superpower? With awe and curiosity, young Sumi recounts the story of her mother’s migration from India and how she came to acquire two tongues, now woven together like fine cloth. Rahele Jomepour Bell’s inviting illustrations make playful use of visual metaphors, while Uma Menon’s lyrical text, told astutely from a child’s perspective, touches lightly on such subjects as linguistic diversity and accent discrimination (“no matter how they speak, every person’s voice is unique and important”). This welcome debut, penned when the author was still a teenager, is an unabashed celebration of the gift of multilingualism—a gift that can transport people across borders and around the world.
Uma Menon was born in 2003 and raised in Winter Park, Florida. Growing up, she could not find stories that reflected her experience in a multilingual house, so she wrote this book at age sixteen. Her writing has appeared in the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, and the Progressive. She was a National Young Arts Winner for three consecutive years and has been nominated thrice for the Pushcart Prize. Uma Menon was the first Youth Fellow for the International Human Rights Art Festival and an Encore Public Voices Fellow. She studies international affairs and creative writing at Princeton University. You can find her at

Rahele Jomepour Bell, an Iranian-American picture book creator, graduated from Iowa State University with an MFA in integrated visual arts. She received an Illustration Mentorship Award from We Need Diverse Books and was awarded both the Portfolio Award Grand Prize and the Social Media Mentorship Award for Illustrators at the SCBWI National Conference. Her inspiration comes mostly from her childhood and Friday night family gatherings at her grandparents’ house and illustrated books from around the world. She is happiest creating illustrations that send the imagination flying, offer a new look at an old idea, and reassure the viewer of their place in this world. Rahele Jomepour Bell lives in the green state of Washington with her family. You can find her at
Product Details ISBN: 9781536222517
ISBN-10: 1536222518
Publisher: Candlewick
Publication Date: February 13th, 2024
Pages: 32
Language: English
The illustrations, which mimic tapestries, are a clever companion to the text, which often invokes a weaving metaphor to explain the feeling of bi- and multilingualism. . . it conveys an essential message about the power of language, and the lyrical narratorial voice beautifully balances curiosity and playfulness. A charming ode to the joy of learning new languages.
—Kirkus Reviews

The narration sparks with emotion and imagery. . . this is a cheerful portrayal of diverse connections, and readers who speak one language at home and another in public will value a book that celebrates that as a skill rather than something that sets them apart from English-only speaking classmates.
—The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

Menon’s respectful story highlights the power of multilingualism and examines the link between accents and identity. Bell’s tactile mixed-media illustrations incorporate an inventive representation of textiles, fonts, and images reflecting each locale, from a scene of boating in Kerala to a snowy day in America. . . . A thought-provoking look at the connecting power of language.
—The Horn Book

The textured mixed-media illustrations reflect the textile metaphors of multilingualism in the narrative. The visual depiction of language, including words and swirls as well as diverse facial features and cultural details, enhances the inclusive messaging. An uplifting story that promotes understanding and connection through language.

Employing canvas and quilted textures, Jomepour Bell emphasizes the theme of weaving throughout this informative celebration of multilingualism.
—Publishers Weekly

The warm-toned illustrations emulate a woven tapestry, mirroring how the languages are woven together, and the smiling, loving family feels like a hug. This is a beautiful book about languages, immigration, and family.
—Book Riot