This Is Me: A Story of Who We Are and Where We Came From

Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
This Is Me: A Story of Who We Are and Where We Came From Book Poster Image
Fun look at immigration celebrates bringing items from home.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Natural tie-in to curriculum or home discussions about immigration. Examples of families from different backgrounds. Spanish word "abuelo." Art illustrates methods of transportation, U.S.A. passport. Mention of St. Christopher medal can prompt discussion of religious belief. Lots of extra printed matter in signage and nametags promotes reading.

Positive Messages

Families have unique histories and cultures and it's fun to investigate them. Things that are meaningful to you and your family reflect and contribute to your identity.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The Asian-American teacher shares her family history and story of her great-grandmother with her class. The class is diverse racially and culturally, and the teacher encourages all the kids to celebrate their backgrounds. The kids are accepting of each other.

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that This Is Me: A Story of Who We Are and Where We Came From is the 11th collaboration by best-selling author-illustrator team Jamie Lee Curtis and Laura Cornell (Today I Feel Silly). Here, Curtis piggybacks on a popular classroom project: packing a single suitcase with what your ancestors might've brought to America. So the book has a natural curriculum tie-in and dovetails with timely, hot-topic conversations about immigration. Cornell's bright watercolors are always a pleasure, and they depict a diverse class that includes African-Americans, Asians, and Latinos. The message is warmly inclusive -- we all come from somewhere -- and actively involves kids in their own family histories, inviting them to fill up their own suitcases with items that are personally meaningful.

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What's the story?

In THIS IS ME: A STORY OF WHO WE ARE AND WHERE WE CAME FROM, an Asian-American teacher describes the journey of her great-grandmother, who came to this country carrying only one small suitcase filled with personal items that helped her make the challenging transition. The teacher then asks the kids what they would pack if they had to make hard choices, and in each spread or page, the kids list their choices, from Abuelo's beret to a beloved punk-rocker Barbie to a baby-tooth tin. The book poses the question to readers: "What would you take? Which things would they be that say to the world, HI THERE, THIS IS ME!"

Is it any good?

This book and activity help kids dig up their histories and relate them to their own lives and identities in a personally meaningful way. Author Jamie Lee Curtis picks a topic on the cutting edge -- immigration -- and ties it to a popular classroom activity: packing an immigrant suitcase. This encourages kids to ask elders about family journeys while also spurring them to think about their personal identities. This Is Me: A Story of Who We Are and Where We Came From is set in a diverse classroom, and Curtis weaves in contemporary references, mentioning commercial brands kids may relate to: Nintendo DS, Barbie, Katy Perry.

The story's told in rhyme that can be a bit bumpy, but the story's warm, and the richly detailed art anchors the reader. Illustrator Laura Cornell prints each kid's name on a colorful luggage tag, and her warm gallery of family portraits at the end celebrates the variety of families that makes up our national mosaic. The inside back cover sports a pop-up suitcase for readers to "fill."

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the family background and nationalities in This Is Me: A Story of Who We Are and Where We Came From. What country does your family come from? Or maybe multiple countries? How did they get here? When did they come?

  • Think of all the kids in your classroom. How many national backgrounds are represented?

  • If you had to pack one suitcase to travel to live in a new country, what would you pack? What's meaningful? What fits? 

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