The best lyrical picture books celebrating stories of place, home, identity, & belonging

Patrice Gopo Author Of All the Places We Call Home
By Patrice Gopo

Who am I?

As the Black American daughter of Jamaican immigrants born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska, I love stories that depict the beauty of being multifaceted human beings. Stories steeped in broad understandings of place and home. Stories that encourage us to delight in being the people we are. I also believe our children are natural poets and storytellers. Lyrical picture books filled with rich language and sensory details encourage the thriving of such creativity. In addition to writing All the Places We Call Home, I'm the author of All the Colors We Will See, an essay collection about race, immigration, and belonging. 

I wrote...

All the Places We Call Home

By Patrice Gopo, Jenin Mohammed (illustrator),

Book cover of All the Places We Call Home

What is my book about?

Where do you come from? Where does your family come from? For many children, the answers to these questions can transform a conversation into a journey around the globe.

In her first picture book, author Patrice Gopo illuminates how family stories help shape children, help form their identity, and help connect them with the broader world. Her lyrical language, paired with Jenin Mohammed's richly textured artwork, creates a beautiful, stirring portrait of a child's deep ties to cultures and communities beyond where she lays her head to sleep. All the Places We Call Home is a quiet triumph that encourages an awakening to our own stories and to the stories of those around us.

The books I picked & why

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Where Are You From?

By Yamile Saied Méndez, Jaime Kim (illustrator),

Book cover of Where Are You From?

Why this book?

Where Are You From? boasts breathtakingly gorgeous text and expansive illustrations. I love this book because it first draws attention to how our world wants to simplify a person’s story. The book then counters with the beautiful reality that we are complex. As the child of immigrants, I could relate to this little girl seeking answers to the narrow question people keep asking her. She turns to Abuelo, who refuses to answer in ways that might categorize her. Instead, his poetic words sweep her up in a triumphant story rooted in deep ties to generations past and ongoing connections with place. Ultimately, this story transforms that feeling of not belonging into a celebration of who you are. What a joy!

The Day You Begin

By Jacqueline Woodson, Rafael López (illustrator),

Book cover of The Day You Begin

Why this book?

The Day You Begin is a lovely, lyrical reminder that we all have unique experiences and moments of not belonging, but we find connections through sharing our stories. Jacqueline Woodson’s repetitive phrase, “There will be times,” paired with the use of a 2nd person narrator, instantly draws us into the story. As a result, we feel part of the story as we think of times when we didn’t fit in or people didn’t understand our experience. So powerful!! I am a huge proponent of the power of sharing personal stories, and I often speak to groups about how sharing stories can serve as a bridge that might connect us. The Day You Begin is a glorious reflection of this truth.

A History of Me

By Adrea Theodore, Erin Robinson (illustrator),

Book cover of A History of Me

Why this book?

A History of Me is a poetically-told story of trial and struggle, but ultimately of triumph and celebration of self. This book is deeply rooted in the author’s experience as a Black child who attended a predominantly white school. Yes, I love this book for its words and illustrations, but I also love it because I share the same experience. This book is one I wish I could hand to the child I once was. Theodore directly addresses the challenges but also provides encouraging words of connection to past generations. These words empower the little girl in the story and readers who find themselves in this book. We need more stories that consider the impact racial injustice can have on identity formation. A History of Me is one such story. 

American Desi

By Jyoti Rajan Gopal, Supriya Kelkar (illustrator),

Book cover of American Desi

Why this book?

The rhythm and energy of American Desi!!! It is an absolute delight to read this story. The repeated question, “Which is the color of me?” paired with the bright, colorful, fiber illustrations will surely draw anyone into the book. As all these different colors and threads and fibers come together, we celebrate as the little girl celebrates, “All the colors of me!” As the child of Jamaican immigrants, born and raised here in the States, I very much relate to these complicated in-between experiences of living in multiple worlds, having threads that connect with numerous places, and trying to figure out where I fit, where I belong. American Desi is truly a book for our global society.  

Magnificent Homespun Brown: A Celebration

By Samara Cole Doyon, Kaylani Juanita (illustrator),

Book cover of Magnificent Homespun Brown: A Celebration

Why this book?

Oh my, oh my, oh my!!! What a celebration indeed!! Such gorgeous, lyrical language. And the illustrations—often connected to the seasons—are vibrant and alive. This story is a poem that encourages a child to celebrate the people they come from and the color they are. I love how the specific words, the soothing alliteration, and the connections with nature and family invite us to read further. And the descriptions of the color brown sing. Finally, as someone who spent a childhood hiking trails and connecting with the outdoors, one of my favorite spreads is where the father and daughter take a mountain hike. We do not see enough brown families spending time in nature in children’s books. What a joy to see this representation. 

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