My Mother's Tongues

By Uma Menon

Illustrated by Rahele Jomepour Bell

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. She can switch between them at the speed of sound: one language when talking to Sumi’s grandmother, another when she addresses the shopkeeper. Sometimes 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.

Categories: Picture Books

For readers aged: 3+

  • Publication details:
  • Format: Hardback
  • ISBN: 9781529517880
  • Published: 15 Feb 2024
  • Price: £12.99
  • Size: 280 x 210 mm
  • Pages: 32

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Customer reviews


'Written by a 16-year-old author, this richly textured picture book is a moving celebration of immigrant multilingualism: languages “woven together like fine cloth” until “the seams are invisible”.' The Guardian

'This celebration of learning and using new languages is superb, showing how it helps overcome differences and borders of all kinds as we connect with people from all over the world. Using canvas backgrounds and quilted textures, Jomepour Bell emphasizes the weaving theme of Uma Menon’s lyrical text in this illuminating book.' Red Reading Hub

'It was a real treat to read Uma Menon’s My Mother’s Tongues: A Weaving of Languages which celebrates the richness of being able to speak different languages – and appreciate the cultures from which they originate.' The Letterpress Project

'This book is a lyrical love letter to mixed cultural identities, demonstrating how languages can both deepen and expand people’s abilities to connect to each other, and to their own heritage.' Children's Books Ireland

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