My Mother’s Tongues: A Weaving of Languages

By Uma Menon
Illustrated by Rahele Jomepour Bell
Candlewick, 2024

32 pages

Cover of My Mother's Tongues: A Weaving of Languages
My Mother’s Tongues: A Weaving of Languages by Uma Menon


Ages 5-9

“My mother has two tongues. With one tongue, she speaks Malayalam. With the other, she speaks English.” Young Sumi (Indian American) explains that her mother changes the language she speaks depending on who she’s with and what she’s doing. With Sumi’s grandmother, she speaks Malayalam, her first language. To the cashier at the store, she speaks English. And to Sumi, she speaks a combination, “the two tongues … now woven together like fine cloth.” Sumi tells about her mom’s childhood in Kerala, India, speaking Malayalam at home. Her mom learned English in school, before coming to America, and speaks it with an accent. “A person’s accent holds hints about what their first language might be, or where they might be from.” Sumi’s first language was also Malayalam; she’s learned English, her second tongue, in her neighborhood and at school. She has other family members who speak even more languages. “My family reminds me that each language is like a muscle. It needs exercise and practice to grow strong.” One day, Sumi hopes to have a “tapestry of tongues,” to speak to people around the world. This welcome, purposeful story offers an accessible metaphor for the ability to speak multiple languages while matter-of-factly affirming the value in doing so. Warm, vibrant mixed media illustrations are full of lively details of Sumi’s family and experiences. ©2024 Cooperative Children’s Book Center