October 2023

I’m From

By Gary R. Gray Jr.
Review by
I’m From is a buoyant story of everyday love and frustrations that will comfort readers who just want to be valued for who they are.
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A young unnamed Black boy wakes up on an ordinary school day with a smile on his face, eager to enjoy his favorite breakfast: “pan-fried bologna, homemade pancakes, strawberry jam.” He hugs his dog, endures a raucous school bus ride and settles in at school. But his unremarkable day is disrupted by insensitive, likely routine remarks from his classmates, who make assumptions and try to box him into prescriptive categories: “Can I touch your hair? . . . You don’t sound Black . . . Do you play basketball? . . . Where are you from?”

In I’m From (Balzer + Bray, $19.99, 9780063089969), the protagonist is from all the things he loves: notebooks, caramel candy squares and late-night belly laughs. He feels most at home when he’s drawing pictures of himself and his dog as superheroes, and when he’s in the warm embrace of his family. Their gentle reminder about their shared traditions, hopes and aspirations give the boy a sense of purpose and belonging, which allows him to fall asleep warm and secure under “handcrafted blankets, knitted with memories.”

Illustrator Oge Mora depicts these blankets and the other illustrations with bold, warm colors and patterns. Her artwork—created with a mix of paint, collage, markers, airbrush and other media—echoes author Gary R. Gray Jr.’s heartfelt words. Harsh colors and shapes mirror the emotional impact of the classmates’ sharp words, but the words of affirmation from the boy’s family are set amid a culminating, joyful spiral of swirling purples and magentas that carry him as high as his imagination can reach. This buoyant story of everyday love and frustrations will comfort readers who just want to be valued for who they are.

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I’m From

I’m From

By Gary R. Gray Jr.
Balzer + Bray
ISBN 9780063089969

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