Picture Book Family Diversity

I got some really nice feedback on my prior post for the recent Blogging for LGBTQ Families Day, including several requests for book recommendations. I recently gave a presentation at the NESCBWI conference about picture book family diversity, so I thought I’d share part of the handout from that program. I intentionally excluded books featuring anthropomorphic animals instead of human characters from the session because, while I like And Tango Makes Three and many other books like it, I think we need more books that directly depict human diversity.

The list below (with some notes from me) is just a start, and it includes not just books with family diversity through the inclusion of queer people, but also depictions of adoptive families, foster families, multiracial families, big families, families with divorced parents, single-parent families, and multigenerational families. But because I fielded several requests for depictions of “casual diversity” wherein the presence of queer characters isn’t the point of the story, titles that might fit that bill are in bold. Please add additional recommendations or requests in the comments.

Part I. Key Concepts Guiding This Session

“What we’re experiencing is not a decline or crisis, but a reimagining [of the American family]. Over the last 50 years there has been an explosion in the diversity of family structures in America. In today’s America, there is no one family arrangement that the majority of children live in. Fewer people are getting married and more children are born to parents who aren’t married. Taking the long view of history, these changes are part of the continuing evolution of America’s families.”

–The Family Story Project

“I do not accept competitive models of love, only additive ones. I espouse reproductive libertarianism, because when everyone has the broadest choice, love itself expands. The affection my family have found in one another is not a better love, but it is another love, and just as species diversity is crucial to sustain the planet, this diversity strengthens the ecosphere of kindness.”

–Andrew Solomon

“Somewhere, on the edge of consciousness, there is what I call a mythical norm, which each one of us within our hearts knows “that is not me.” In America, this norm is usually defined as white, thin, male, young, heterosexual, Christian, and financially secure. It is with this mythical norm that the trappings of power reside within this society. Those of us who stand outside that power often identify one way in which we are different, and we assume that to be the primary cause of all oppression, forgetting other distortions around difference, some of which we ourselves may be practicing.”

   –Audre Lorde

“It’s not about adding diversity for the sake of diversity, it’s about subtracting homogeneity for the sake of realism.”

— Mary Robinette Kowel

Picture books mentioned in today’s session

Adoff, Arnold. Black Is Brown Is Tan. Illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully (B/W multiracial family)

Alko, Selina. The Case for Loving. Illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko (B/W multiracial family; NF)

Baker, Miriam Schiffer. Stella Brings the Family. Illustrated by Clifton-Brown, Holly (2-dad family)

Coffelt, Nancy. Fred Stays with Me. Illustrated by Tricia Tusa (divorced, joint-custody family w mom & dad)

de Haan, Linda and Nijland, Stern. King & King (gay marriage fairytale. Note: I do not recommend the sequel King & King & Family because of racist content and insensitivity to the complexities of transracial, transnational adoption)

Fogliano, Julie. Old Dog, Baby Baby. Illustrated by Chris Raschka (subtle inclusion of 2 mom family)

Harris, Robie. Who’s In My Family? Illustrated by Nadine Bernard Westcott (family diversity as concept)

Hoberman, Maryann. The Seven Silly Eaters. Illustrated by Marla Frazee. (large family size in a White mom & dad family—7 kids)

Isadora, Rachel. What a Family! (large extended, multiracial family. No inclusion of queer family, though)

Lambert, Megan Dowd. A Crow of His Own. Illustrated by David Hyde Costello (secondary characters are a White gay male couple)

—. Real Sisters Pretend. Illustrated by Nicole Tadgell (multiracial, adoptive, 2-mom family)

—. A Kid of Their Own. (forthcoming in 2019) (planned that the gay couple will adopt a child of color)

Lindenbaum, Pija. Mini Mia and Her Darling Uncle. (Mia is jealous of her gay uncle’s fiancé)

McAnulty, Stacy. Excellent Ed. Illustrated by Julia Sarcone-Roach. (large family size—5 kids in a Black family)

Meyers, Susan. Everywhere Babies. Illustrated by Marla Frazee. (inclusive depictions of many kinds of families—2 mom, 2 dad, multiracial)

Newman, Lesléa. Heather Has Two Mommies. Illustrated by Laura Cornell. (new edition from Candlewick, 2 mom family)

—. Mommy, Mama, and Me. Illustrated by Carol Thompson (board book about 2-mom, multiracial family)

—. Daddy, Papa, and Me. Illustrated by Carol Thompson (board book about 2-dad multiracial family)

O’Leary, Sara. A Family Is a Family Is a Family. Illustrated by Qin Leng (broad family diversity w/in classroom setting: 2 mom, 2 dad, foster, adoptive, single parent, grandparent-headed, multiracial, divorced, blended…)

Parr, Todd. The Family Book (family diversity as concept—some veering into anthropomorphic animal stand-ins)

Polacco, Patricia. In Our Mothers’ House (multiracial, adoptive, 2-mom family. I have some quibbles with the depiction of the one homophobe they encounter, and some questions about the scope of the book and its handling of adoption, but I do still recommend it)

Schwartz, Amy. Polka Dots for Poppy (a single mom w 3 white daughters, 1 Asian. Adoption isn’t overtly mentioned)

Shannon, George. One Family. Illustrated by Blanca Gomez (family diversity as concept, inclusion as message)

Simon, Norma. All Kinds of Families. Illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen (family diversity as concept, though not terribly well executed)

Walsh, Melanie. Living with Mom and Living with Dad (divorced, joint-custody family)

Wild, Margaret. Our Granny. Illustrated by Julie Vivas (single mom w 2 kids and a granny at home; many diverse depictions of different grandmothers)

Williams, Vera B. A Chair for My Mother (Single mom, 1 kid living with grandmother)

—. Home at Last. Illustrated by Chris Raschka (2-dad, adoptive family)

—. “More, More, More,” Said the Baby: Three Love Stories (mom & daughter, dad & son, grandmother & grandson. The latter can be read as a White grandmother and Black grandson)

Woodson, Jacqueline. Our Gracie Aunt. Illustrated by Jon J. Muth (kinship foster care in a Black family, w aunt and niece and nephew)

—. Pecan Pie Baby. Illustrated by Sophie Blackall (single Black mom and daughter waiting for birth of new baby, extended family present

Additional Resources Mentioned Today

  • Jack Gantos’s “Secret Tips for Aspiring Authors” http://www.jackgantos.com/tips/
  • Storytime Underground http://storytimeunderground.org/category/social-justice/
  • Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) http://ccbc.education.wisc.edu/books/pcstats.asp
  • Rainbow Book List http://glbtrt.ala.org/rainbowbooks/
  • The Family Story Project http://www.familystoryproject.org/
  • Reading While White http://readingwhilewhite.blogspot.com/
  • Embrace Race http://www.embracerace.org/
  • We Need Diverse Books http://weneeddiversebooks.org/
  • “That’s a Family!” a film from Ground Spark http://groundspark.org/our-films-and-campaigns/thatfamily/taf_statistics

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