A Caldecott Honor artist and five-time recipient of the Pura Belpré Award for Illustration, Yuyi Morales arrives at BookExpo from her hometown of Yelapa, Mexico, to introduce booksellers to her most personal book to date. Dreamers (Holiday House/Neal Porter ) is a picture-book memoir following Morales’s 1994 journey from Mexico to the San Francisco Bay Area with her infant son, and their adjustment to a new life.

Morales’s inspiration for Dreamers had several sources, including what she identified as a need for personal story sharing. On author visits to libraries, she encountered many Latino families eager to hear her immigration story. “From their questions, I knew they were interested in what had happened to me, but I also sensed their need to tell their own stories,” she says. “It made me realize how important it is to have a variety of voices explaining how and why they came to the U.S. And though everyone’s story is different, what we all have in common is the struggle to adjust to a new home—and figure out how we belong here.”

Dreamers underscores the pivotal role that books played in easing that process for Morales and her son. “I want this book to celebrate and honor all the people who extended their hands to make us feel welcome, especially the public librarians in the Bay Area,” she says. “When I first saw picture books in the library, I was amazed—I couldn’t believe that such a thing existed! The art was so colorful and the text so simple. If I put the two together, I could understand the stories—even though I didn’t know much English.”

Library books also unleashed Morales’s creativity. She checked out armful after armful of how-to books on such topics as painting, making handmade paper, and bookbinding. “These books opened doors for me by letting me realize that I was an artistic person,” she recalls. “They taught me so very much, and helped me integrate so many skills into my life, and to transform myself.”

There’s another key message that Morales hopes Dreamers imparts, especially in today’s tumultuous political climate. “One of the things immigrants struggle with is this notion that we come to new places because we lack things,” she observes. “But if we sometimes arrive with needs, we also come bearing an abundance of gifts. I hope that Dreamers helps people realize that by opening our eyes and putting our gifts together, we can transform our world and create a brighter future.”