Where Are You From?

Book review by
Mandie Caroll, Common Sense Media
Where Are You From? Book Poster Image
Lovely art frames lyrical answer to oft-asked question.

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

Educational Value

Shows many aspects of the places that different parts of a girl's family came from -- different countries with their own unique landscapes, natural resources, animals, and cultures. References to Argentina, Puerto Rico, and slavery.

Positive Messages

Find an adult who can help you understand confusing things. The answer to "Where are you from?" can mean lots of interesting, beautiful things. Be curious about and proud of who you are. Listen to and believe people when they tell you where they are from; you may learn something wonderful and make a friend. Where Are You From? encourages self-awareness and pride in your cultural background, as well as acceptance and appreciation of others' cultural backgrounds.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The main character is perceptive and her experience of not belonging will be relatable to many readers. Abuelo is whimsical and poetic, and very reassuring. Abuelo and the little girl are Afro-Latinx (not explicit, some readers will pick up on Abuelo's references to Argentina, Puerto Rico, and slavery); the other characters represent a wide range of skin colors and genders.

Violence & Scariness

A refernce to slavery. 


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Where Are You From?, by Yamile Saied Méndez and illustrated by Jaime Kim, is a picture book about a little brown girl who, after being indirectly questioned about her identity by peers and adults alike, feels left out, and seeks the counsel of her abuelo (grandfather). Lyrical language accompanies pictures in soothing, sunset hues. The story celebrates having a positive self-image and pride in your identity. The little girl is a relatable character, and Abuelo is a comforting presence. The pair appear to be Afro-Latinx/mixed-race, though that's never explicitly stated. The characters who ask the girl where she's really from represent a range of skin colors.

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What's the story?

WHERE ARE YOU FROM? tells the story of a little brown girl who can't seem to give the answer people want to this very common question. So, she asks her Abuelo, who also looks like he doesn't belong, "Where am I from?" Abuelo thoughtfully answers by describing the beauty, strength, and resilience of the people and places her family came from. The Pampas, the guachos, the brown river, the mountains, the sea, hurricanes, even a tiny, singing frog are all a part of the girl's family history, part of her identity. It isn't the answer she was looking for, but she "sees" her identity in a new way and is able to take pride in it.

Is it any good?

This charmingly illustrated, thoughtfully written picture book offers a gentle wayfor the youngest readers to explore the complexities of identity. The story in Where Are You From? expands the idea of "origins" beyond a physical location to include the people, the natural world, and the history of a place and culture we are from. Most kids will relate to feeling left out, as well as finding comfort with a loving relative. The story encourages self-awareness, empathy, and family relationships.

The language verges on the poetic, with tender renderings of setting and history. There are soothingly illustrated pictures of a sunset walk, moving from the pastels of early evening to warm golds and oranges to the deep blues of night. Abuelo and the little girl are often visually small on the page, giving the feel of just how expansive a person's identity can be. Where Are You From? is like a window and a mirror: It allows young readers who haven't explored their backgrounds to look into lives that may not be like their own, and it reflects and affirms the experiences of kids who are not always accepted because of the way they look or speak. Overall, it's a great pick for families interested in exploring cultural identity with younger kids.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the question the little girl in Where Are You From? gets frustrated with: "Where are you really from?" How does this question make the girl feel? Have you ever been asked a question that makes you feel left out? How did you deal with your situation?

  • How do the paintings in this book show the little girl where she's from? If you could draw pictures about where you're from, what would you draw?

  • Abuelo never directly tells the little girl what countries her family is from. Why do you think Abuelo chooses not to tell her that information? Would you say Abuelo gives her a good answer? Why or why not?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love immigrant stories and books about families

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