Today we’re delighted to reveal the cover for picture book My Mother’s Tongues: A Weaving of Languages by Uma Menon, illustrated by Rahele Jomepour Bell!
The book was edited by Mary Lee Donovan with the assistance of Analía Cabello and Juan Botero; designed by Maryellen Hanley; and completed with the linguistic consultation of Alexander Elias. Uma is represented by Victoria Sanders at Victoria Sanders & Associates, while Rahele is represented by Christy Ewers at the CAT Agency. The book will be released in Fall 2023 by Candlewick Press.
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. And she can switch between them at the speed of sound: one language when talking to Sumi’s grandmother, another when she addresses the cashier. Sometimes with Sumi 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.
Uma Menon was born in 2003 and raised in Winter Park, Florida. Growing up, she could not find stories that reflected her experience in a multilingual house, so she wrote this book at age sixteen. Her writing has appeared in the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, and the Progressive. She was a National Young Arts Winner for three consecutive years and has been nominated thrice for the Pushcart Prize. Uma Menon was the first Youth Fellow for the International Human Rights Art Festival and an Encore Public Voices Fellow. She studies international affairs and creative writing at Princeton University. You can find her at www.theumamenon.com.
Rahele Jomepour Bell, an Iranian-American picture book creator, graduated from Iowa State University with an MFA in integrated visual arts. She received an Illustration Mentorship Award from We Need Diverse Books and was awarded both the Portfolio Award Grand Prize and the Social Media Mentorship Award for Illustrators at the SCBWI National Conference. Her inspiration comes mostly from her childhood and Friday night family gatherings at her grandparents’ house and illustrated books from around the world. She is happiest creating illustrations that send the imagination flying, offer a new look at an old idea, and reassure the viewer of their place in this world. Rahele Jomepour Bell lives in the green state of Washington with her family. You can find her at www.rahelestudio.com.