My Hands Tell a Story Trade Book (Hardcover)

Written By Kelly Starling Lyons
Illustrated by Tonya Engel
Critically Reviewed
Award Winner

A little girl, baking bread with her grandmother, becomes transported by the tales her grandmother’s hands tell—those that spring from the rose-painted nails, a flower-banded wedding ring, and the way her fingers move and glide. These hands have many tales to tell. But only if you listen.

  1. Hardcover
    Price $17.95
ISBN 9781478870616
Series Reycraft Books
Number Level 28
ISBN 9781478870616
Series Reycraft Books
Number Level 28
Lexile level 660L
Letter Level M
Genre Narrative
Language English
Theme Dreamers and Inventors, Families and Friends, Food for Life, Past and Present, The Human Body
BISAC Subject Headings Juvenile Fiction / People & Places / United States / African American
Juvenile Fiction / Family / Multigenerational
Juvenile Fiction / Imagination & Play
Juvenile Fiction / People & Places / United States / African American
Juvenile Fiction / Family / Multigenerational
Juvenile Fiction / Imagination & Play
Price $17.95

Best Children’s Books of the Year 2023: Bank Street College of Education Children’s Book Committee

Best Children’s Multicultural Books of 2022 by CSMCL

NCTE 2023 Charlotte Huck Award for Outstanding Fiction for Children, Recommended Book

New York Public Library Best Books for Kids 2022

Author & Illustrator

Kelly Starling Lyons

Like Zoe, author Kelly Starling Lyons grew up baking treats with her Grandma. Now, she celebrates those special moments in stories. Kelly has written many acclaimed children's books including Caldecott Honor winner Going Down Home with Daddy, Christopher Award winner Tiara's Hat Parade and Geisel Honor winner, Ty's Travels: Zip, Zoom. She is a teaching artist and a founding member of The Brown Bookshelf. Kelly lives in North Carolina with her family. Visit her online at

Tonya Engel

Tonya Engel is a self-taught artist  born in Texas and  has established studios in New York, Miami, Austin, and Houston, where she now lives. Heavily influenced by folk artists of the Deep South and Harlem Renaissance, Tonya’s illustrations speak to image, identity, and relationships. Combining decorative elements, oil paints, and occasional collage, the subjects are mainly women whose facial expressions invite thought and interpretation. Engel has received many awards, including a three-month residency in Paris, France.   


★ Hands and the stories they tell become the means through which a Black child bonds with a beloved grandmother in this expressive, painterly picture book. While showing Zoe how to bake cinnamon bread like her mother taught her (“Ingredients are only part of it. You’ve got to get the rhythm”), Zoe’s grandma describes some of what her hands have seen and done—from dancing onstage to growing a vegetable garden early in her marriage—prompting Zoe to reflect on the future. “I look at my hands, really look at them, for the first time./ I can see memories in every line.// Clapping games with friends./ Drawing my dreams./ Building and baking,” Zoe describes. When the bread is finished, the pair high five, and Grandma remarks upon the physical similarity between their hands, while also musing about the different life experiences Zoe is sure to have. With big brushstrokes, Engel’s thickly textured paintings lend a timeless feel to Lyons’s heartwarming portrait of grandparent-child love.

—Publishers Weekly Starred Review

★ In this heartwarming story, Zoe, a young Black girl, shares reflective conversation with her grandma, inspired by Zoe’s observations of her grandma’s skillful, graceful hands as they bake bread together. The grandmother reveals how her hands hold memories, love of family, and a life lived with purpose, all of which reassure Zoe that her own hands hold strength to shape the start of her own life story. This sincere relationship of trust and care is beautifully captured in oil-painted illustrations, where quiet, personal moments within the kitchen are accompanied by an elegant, symbolic focus on hands. Engel’s painterly brush strokes in captivating scenes create textured grooves, an integral element transforming the hands and scenes depicted into sculpted lines and lively colors that appear almost tangible to readers. Vivid blended layers and gentle swirls outline the figures for a glowing effect that echoes the thoughtful tone of the story. Readers will pause to share in the happiness and sense of peace that bloom on the family’s faces; the spirit of finding one’s calling in this expressively illustrated book honoring family and self-love.

—School Library Journal Starred Review

By gaining an appreciation for the past, this endearing tale empowers Zoe to use her hands to craft the stories of the future.

– SRQ Magazine

This story spreads joy like a dusting of flour on a freshly baked loaf.

—The Horn Book Review

Copyright ┬® REYCRAFT BOOKS 2020