Review of I’m From

I’m From I’m From
by Gary R. Gray, Jr.; illus. by Oge Mora
Preschool, Primary    Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins    40 pp.
9/23    9780063089969    $19.99
e-book ed.  9780063334366    $10.99

“I come from / early morning wake-ups, / handcrafted blankets / knitted with memories.” A young Black boy arises from his cozy bed and finds Dad in the kitchen making his favorite breakfast of pancakes and pan-fried bologna. Readers accompany the (unnamed) character as he rides the rowdy school bus, plays in the schoolyard, and endures a “looooong school day.” After a visit to the neighborhood store, he returns home to his loving family and, finally, climbs back into his bed at night. While describing a seemingly ordinary routine, the lyrical text is a journey through Black language and culture, evoking a sense of identity, community, and connectedness: “Cotton candy hair / and razor-sharp lineups. / High fades and / low fades, / tight ponytails / and laid edges. / What’s up, y’all?” Mora’s mixed-media illustrations enhance the poetic storytelling. The colorful collage-work adds texture and motion to the pages, while selective hand-lettering emphasizes parts of the verse. On one spread that mentions microaggressions toward the narrator (“Can I touch your hair?” “Where are you from?”), the questions take over the pages, visually communicating the isolating feeling of being othered. This beautifully rendered picture book serves as a reminder of the importance of familial and cultural identity and the grounding that it offers in the wider world.

From the September/October 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Monique Harris

Monique Harris is a public educator, reading specialist and independent educational consultant. She holds a Master of Science degree in Education from Simmons University, and is enrolled in a PhD program at Florida State University.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing.