By Becca Worthington, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library
As we prepare to head into the (sometimes both celebrated and dreaded) multi-holiday season, family is usually at the front of the mind. And while there are certainly plenty of traditional two-parent homes, there is also an ever-increasing number of diverse and alternative family structures. So, whatever your personal version of family looks like, whether you want a child in your life to see his or her own family experience reflected in a book or to use a book to spark discussion about the beautiful array of families around them that might look different from theirs, the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library has got you covered. Each of these family-themed picture books is as warm and enveloping as a bear hug, so cuddle up and nestle down with one of these.
A Family is a Family is a Family by Sara O’Leary, illustrated by Qin Leng
When the schoolteacher asks her class to tell why their families are special, the narrator isn’t sure what to say. But as each classmate shares, it becomes clear that every family is different in a beautiful way. Whether a solo child of a mom in a wheelchair, splitting the week between mom and dad, being raised by a grandparent who is your everything, part of a large, blended family, having two mommies or two daddies, being the offspring of a biracial couple, or having a mom and dad so in love it’s kind of icky, each child’s family experience is uniquely their own… including the foster child telling the story. Rich with the message love and acceptance, and full of soft and inclusive artwork that celebrates diversity, this book is a must-read.
Little Elliot, Big Family by Mike Curato
It’s always a gamble whether I’ll get through this one without crying. When Mouse heads off to a family reunion with his 24 siblings, 52 aunts and uncles, and 147 cousins, his friend Elliot goes on a walk through the city. He sees all versions of family—brothers playing in the street, mothers reading to sons on the subway, sisters sharing ice cream, grandmothers singing to babies—and wonders what it would be like to have his own. But as he heads home in the snow, lonely and dejected, Mouse finds Elliot and invites him to be part of the Mouse family. It’s a gorgeously illustrated and beautifully told tale about the chosen family experience.
Up! How Families Around the World Carry Their Little Ones by Susan Hughes
Have you ever wondered how families around the world carry their little ones as they go about their daily duties? This book shows how babies are carried around the globe, from tucked in Sister’s shawl in Peru to nestled in Grandmother’s parka in Canada’s Far North, and from cuddled in Auntie’s sling in an Indian fruit market and sitting in baskets hung from Uncle’s shoulder poles in China. It’s a sweet, diverse family-centric book to share with a toddler or preschooler.
We Are Family by Patricia Hegerty, illustrated by Ryan Wheatcroft
This book for elementary schoolers uses graphic novel-style panels to follow ten very different families around the world through the course of a day. There is terrific representation in the artwork—one of the families has a child in a wheelchair, two are same-sex couples, one is a grandfather caretaker, etc.—and lovely racial and cultural diversity as well. The message is one of unity and celebration, that families help us feel loved, safe, and sound.
Families! Families! Families! by Suzanne Lang, illustrated by Max Lang
This book is a deceptively simple way to show that families can look like many things—an only child or a ton of siblings, two dads or one mom, adopted or stepsiblings, married or unmarried—but if you love each other then you are a family. Its magic is that it shows this using a delightful menagerie of warthogs, walruses, koalas, llamas, slugs, and ostriches, often wearing ill-fitting bowties, jaunty caps, and bifocals. Yes, the messaging is terrific, but not quite as terrific as getting to see a baby wolf in a turtleneck sweater or a pig in a tutu.