Where We Come From: A Beautiful Children’s Book About Ancestry

Each year, as January rolls around, I get excited for Multicultural Children’s Book Day, a celebration of multicultural books and authors. This year I had the honor of reviewing Where We Come From by Diane Wilson, Sun Yung Shin, Shannon Gibney and John Coy and illustrated by Dion MBD. It is published by Carol Rhoda Books an imprint of Lerner Publishing Group. This is a beautiful children’s book about ancestry that will pave the way for conversations with your kids about your own family history and equip them to embrace all aspects of their story: the good, the bad and even the unknown.

Unbiased Review of Where We Come From

Please note that I was gifted a copy of Where We Come From by Diane Wilson, Sun Yung Shin, Shannon Gibney and John Coy and illustrated by Dion MBD as a part of Multicultural Children’s Book Day. However, all opinions are my own.

This book is absolutely gorgeous. I always get excited to dive into a new book but this one took my breath away the minute I opened the box. The artwork is stunning. I also love the way they effortlessly intertwine four very unique stories of heritage and ancestry.

The poetic style flows beautifully. I would love to hear it read aloud by the authors or even set to music. It has such a melodic feel to it.

At first, my eight year old struggled a little bit to understand the structure but once I showed him the pictures of the authors on the back and helped him see the four different story lines, he was hooked.

We had some great conversations about history, our own ancestry and how pieces of our stories are all connected, even when they appear to be wildly different.

Not only do they portray the beauty of their heritage but also the pain that forms a part of their past. They don’t shy away from the reality that all the pieces matter: the good, bad, beautiful and ugly.

In one short children’s book you see slavery, mixed race identity, adoption, the great migration, oppression of indigenous peoples in the United States, and immigration from European countries.

The notes in the back offer a deeper dive into the histories mentioned throughout the poem for curious kiddos, and adults, who want to learn more.

As I was reading this book, I realized I know much more about my husband’s culture than my own. My ancestors are largely from Poland and Germany and I can tell you absolutely nothing about either of those places, cultures, or even the story of how our family ended up in the US.

I know my husband’s family history by heart, because thanks to Day of the Dead, it’s told yearly. But in US culture, we leave the past in the past, wrongly assuming it doesn’t matter anymore. Yet as I have been learning by studying trauma, our ancestry very much stays with us…in our bodies, in our DNA, and our nervous systems. Maybe it’s time I start doing some learning of my own….

Discussion Questions for Where We Come From

These questions are geared toward elementary kids, ages 5-10. I do think that older elementary (8+) might be more appreciative of this work that the younger kiddos.

  • What is your story? What people, places, or memories make up the story of where you’re from?
  • Can you find parts of the author’s stories that remind you of your own?
  • Are there any pieces of this story that surprised you? Made you sad? Made you happy?

I am purposely not listing many questions for you because, I promise, your kids will have their own. This book is full of imagery, storylines and ideas that will spark questions and potentially deep conversations. This is probably not a good “you need to be in bed in 15 minutes” book. It is more of a “let’s spend a half hour chatting after we read” kind of book.

Activities Related to Where We Come From

Create your own Where I Come From story. Toward the end of the book you see these images:

Have children draw, or create a collage, with their own self portrait full of the things, people, places and stories that make them who they are. Then, help kids write their own short story or poem about their family history.

If you discover that there are lots of holes in your story, start investigating! You could:

  • Call a family member and ask questions about your ancestry
  • Find out if your local library has a genealogy department.
  • Do an ancestry DNA test to find what clues you find.
  • Read books to learn more about the places your family originates from.

Where We Come From is a unique, beautiful children’s book that reminds us of the importance of and the power of ancestry. It encourages children to embrace their heritage and recognize their families past as a part of their present while also showing them how we are all connected. This is a beautiful book for older elementary age and beyond and one my son and I will definitely be revisiting regularly.

As the story says, “We come from place, language, and spirit. And each of us comes from story.” Do you know yours? If not, maybe it is time to discover the story of you.

If you’d like to explore more diverse books, check out Multicultural Children’s Book Day books from past years.

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2023 (1/26/22) is in its 10th year! This non-profit children’s literacy initiative was founded by Valarie Budayr and Mia Wenjen; two diverse book-loving moms who saw a need to shine the spotlight on all of the multicultural books and authors on the market while also working to get those books into the hands of young readers and educators.

Ten years in, MCBD’s mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in homes and school bookshelves continues. Read about our Mission & History HERE.

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📌 FREE RESOURCES from Multicultural Children’s Book Day

📌 Register for the MCBD Read Your World Virtual Party

Join us on Thursday, January 26, 2023, at 9 pm EST for the 10th annual Multicultural Children’s Book Day Read Your World Virtual Party!

This epically fun and fast-paced hour includes multicultural book discussions, addressing timely issues, diverse book recommendations, & reading ideas.

We will be giving away a 10-Book Bundle during the virtual party plus Bonus Prizes as well! *** US and Global participants welcome. **

Follow the hashtag #ReadYourWorld to join the conversation, and connect with like-minded parts, authors, publishers, educators, organizations, and librarians. We look forward to seeing you all on January 26, 2023, at our virtual party!

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