Reaching Real Kids with Real Sisters Pretend


Real Sisters


My picture book Real Sisters Pretend (Tilbury House Publishers 2016) was inspired by a conversation I overheard two of my daughters having about adoption after a stranger questioned whether they were “real sisters.”  My daughters, pictured here with their youngest sister, are not biologically related to one another; but there is no doubt that these three girls are real sisters, with bonds created through shared love and experience, no matter how others may question this truth.




I recently received an email from a reader who shared Real Sisters Pretend with her four-year-old daughter after some of her peers told her that her baby sister was not her “real sister.” She said that I could share her note, so I am posting it here, with thanks to this loving mom who took the time to write to me:


Date: Sat, November 26, 2016 8:12 pm
To: megan @

Hi Megan,

I am an adoptive Mom with a 4 year old and 10 month RSPold at home.  We talk adoption A LOT at home and both girls have open adoptions.  When my oldest came home from preschool two weeks ago she announced from the back seat that she could no longer play with her baby sister.  She explained to me that we were a white family and her sister was brown.  She told me that her friends at school told her they were not “real sisters” and that they shouldn’t play anymore.
I read every book about skin color we owned and started through our adoption collection but none of them addressed the “real” issue – that they WERE REAL SISTERS!  I found your book at our local library in Vermont.  We started to read it on our way home while I was pumping gas… we couldn’t wait to finish it.  This book was exactly what our family needed at exactly the right time.  I’m now getting the book for Christmas as well as a copy for my daughter’s classroom.  I have been invited in to read the book and discuss adoption.
Thank you!!
RSP Carle storytime 2016-11-19 13.51.40

Real Sisters Pretend storytime with Megan Dowd Lambert and Nicole Tadgell on National Adoption Day at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

Illustrator Nicole Tadgell and I (pictured here at our National Adoption Day storytime and book-signing at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art), and everyone at Tilbury House Publishers, are so moved by this mother’s letter, which affirms how important it is to have children’s books that depict diverse family constellations. Our hope was that children like this four-year-old girl would find validation in our book’s mirroring of their lives, while it could also open up conversations about dealing with others’ assumptions about family.
signing at carle w Nicole

Nicole Tadgell and Megan Dowd Lambert

This letter also highlights how other kids can experience the book as a window that hopefully will move them past a limited understanding of what “real” family means. (All credit to scholar Rudine Simms Bishop for the mirrors/windows analogy that I use here, and which I often reference in my teaching and writing about children’s books).
At our Carle storytime, I also read Todd Parr’s The Family Book, pictured here:
parr families
family is a family
And, another recent picture book, Sara O’Leary and Qin Leng’s A Family Is a Family Is a Family also tackles the “real” question in the context of a foster parent/foster child relationship while presenting a broad range of diverse family constellations represented in a single classroom.

Finally, five of my six kids are included in a photo in Shelly Rotner and Sheila M. Kelly’s beautiful Families book, alongside text explaining that sometimes people in a family don’t look alike. Here they are at The Odyssey Bookshop holding the


book open to the page that features them (though their eldest brother pictured in the book was away at college and not present at the bookstore that day, while the baby in the bookstore was not born in time to be in the book’s picture!).

It means the world to me to know that Real Sisters Pretend, like these other children’s books, is reaching real kids and playing a real part in affirming the truth that love makes a family. So thanks to this reader for writing to me, to her public library for adding our book to its collection, and thanks to all who help kids feel safe and secure in their place in the world.

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