My Mom Is a Foreigner, But Not to Me

Book review by
Patricia Tauzer, Common Sense Media
My Mom Is a Foreigner, But Not to Me Book Poster Image
Sweet tale of multicultural moms has message of acceptance.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

My Mom is a Foreigner, But Not to Me offers opportunity to discuss how people get here from other countries and what it means to be a foreigner with different customs. Kids can also learn words for mother, special nicknames, and ways to say "I love you" in other languages. The book has a page for matching symbols with the names of a few special holidays and festivals from around the world. 

Positive Messages

We may all be different in some ways, but in important ways we are the same. No matter where your mom is from, and how different she may be, she's the one person who loves you the best. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

All of the moms and kids look happy and loving, and they are accepting of each other even though they notice one another's differences. Each kid loves his  or her mother the best in spite of the strange, embarrassing things she does.

Violence & Scariness
Language

None of the language is inappropriate in any way. 

What parents need to know

Parents should know that My Mom Is a Foreigner, But Not to Me by Julianne Moore is one of a handful of books written for young kids about multicultural family relationships. In this story, immigrant moms talk and dress differently, use strange words, etc., and kids find some of those things embarrassing. From an assortment of countries, all these moms are a bit different, yet they are all the same when it comes to doing all the special mom-things. When different kids speak, their words are shown in different fonts, and that is confusing at first reading, but once readers get that, the book comes alive. And, the overriding lesson is one of love and acceptance. 

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What's the story?

MY MOM IS A FOREIGNER, BUT NOT TO ME interweaves the voices of various children to explain how they feel about their mothers who have come from an assortment of countries other than the United States. Kids say their foreign-born moms look different, talk a little funny, cook strange foods, and have expectations that are a bit unusual. But, they also listen, sing, laugh and hug in their special ways. And that is what makes each of them "the best."

Is it any good?

The sentiment is sweet and loving, and Meilo So's vivid watercolor-and-ink illustrations add a pleasant softness and vivid ethnic beauty to the narrative. When read aloud slowly, with time taken to look closely at the pictures, the gentle message accurately captures the tug kids of immigrant parents must feel as they adjust to the world around them. Author Julianne Moore is talking here from her own experience, so she should know. However, on first read, knowing who is speaking is a bit confusing. Different fonts are used to indicate different children and none of them is ever really identified or matched together. Also, the rhyming verse is awkward and strained at times, and that detracts from the story.  

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what it means to be an immigrant, or a foreigner, and the different countries represented in this book. Do you know people from any of these countries? Are they immigrants? How can you tell? How are they different? How are they the same?

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  • The author uses different fonts to show that different people are speaking. Did you find that confusing, or did you get it at the start? What does it show about being different and being the same?

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  • Look at the festival page and try to match the symbols with the celebration. The answers are inside the front page.

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