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Emma and Meesha my Boy: A Two Mom Story by Kaitlyn Taylor Considine #twomoms #Diversekidsbooks
Emma and Meesha my Boy by Kaitlyn Taylor Considine is a short rhyming story about a little girl named Emma, her two moms and their chubby cat. Emma, who looks delightfully naughty, learns how to interact and treat her cat properly with help from her Mommy and Mama. In the beginning Meesha my Boy, as Emma calls her cat, is traumatized with dress up, by brown paint, and being picked up but in the end Emma is cheered on by her moms as she pets him, feeds him and cares for him gently.
This book addresses the fact that Emma is part of a two mom family, but this is not the main topic of the book. The author approaches this topic as a matter of “just so you know”. The reader gets the clear message that having two moms is completely normal and nothing to really focus on. But a little girl and her cat—now, that’s a good story.
Recommendation: I highly recommend this book for readers 3-6 years old.
Reviewer: Amanda Setty
Publisher: TWOMOMBOOKS; Publication Date: 2005
This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman
This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman is an easy way to introduce a child to the joy motivating people to celebrate in Pride Parades every year. Easy to follow, simple, two line rhymes in inconspicuous locations on the pages, which seem to overflow with vibrant illustrations, describe the many sights common in a Gay Pride Parade. Not a part of the sparse text, but present in the illustrations are many of the political messages that are commonly seen at a Gay Pride Parade. While the illustrations are fun, this isn’t like the books we normally review, which represent LGBT-parents leading a family. There are children in a few of the illustrations but most of the illustrations feature adults having parade fun, which means that in addition to images of people with rainbow colored hair, parade floats, flags and Carnivalesque costumes, there are illustrations of men without shirts and adults kissing. When I saw the images of bare chested men, bikini-top wearing marchers and adults kissing, I had a strong oppositional reaction to the idea of showing this to a child however reading the discussion guide in the back of the book helped me to see that a child looking at these illustrations would not read the same sexual context that I see, into these images. (more…)
Donovan’s Big Day by Leslea Newman
A close examination of the cover of Lesléa Newman’s Donovan’s Big Day — which features two, shiny gold rings dangling overhead — hints that the story involves a wedding. If you miss that cue, you’ll probably spend half of the book wondering just what Donovan’s “very BIG day” is all about. (Which could actually be a lot of fun for young readers!) But if you’re a fan of Newman’s work, you already know it’s not a “typical” wedding. Newman is one of a handful of authors who pens children’s books featuring same-gender parents and how their families are just like every other family out there. And Donovan’s family, as well as his big day, is no different. (more…)
Antonio’s Card/ La Tarjeta de Antonio by/por Rigoberto Gonzalez
With sophisticated literary conventions, Rigoberto Gonzalez tells this bilingual story of personal growth targeted to experienced young readers. Antonio is an elementary student of Mexican heritage, born in the United States, who loves to spell and read with his mom and his mom’s partner, Leslie. These facts are all revealed slowly as the narrative unfolds. The narrative’s primary concern is establishing the relationship of a son’s love for his stepmother and the emotional quandary a son experiences when he is embarrassed by the parent he loves because of the way his peers respond to her. The fact that he has two moms is not an issue in the book. The fact that his father is absent from his daily life is revealed as a part of a scene discussing him reading with Leslie about Guadalajara, Mexico, “where Antonio’s grandparents live. His father went to live there, too, many years ago, when Antonio was just a baby.” His world is presented as normative; in fact the illustrations are of a student population at his school, that is predominantly Latino including a Latina teacher, and all except one of the children who are not Latino, are children of color.
Parents and grandparents of the children in this book represent a full range of ages, ethnicities and religious backgrounds. The sentence, “Parents of all shapes and sizes come to greet their children” cues us in to notice the differences amongst these families. We see the racial and gender differences amongst the parents and the children they are greeting easily. On a double take we notice that Leslie, Antonio’s stepmother is taller than the other adults, which seems to be the biggest difference between her and the other adults that Antonio notices, while the other children jeer about her because she “looks like a guy,” and has paint all over her from her work in the art studio, which stimulates them to belittle her as looking “like a box of crayons exploded all over her.” In response, Antonio pulls Leslie away and, despite the fact that he enjoys his time with Leslie after school every day, he asks if he can walk home by himself in the future.
This book feels sad. This is because of the tone set by the illustrations, which convey a persistent sense of yearning and longing in the eyes of almost all the characters. No one ever smiles fully, except in the family drawing Antonio makes of him and his two moms for his mother’s day card. Even when a compromised smile appears on the face of a character, their eyes overshadow any reading of complete fulfillment or happiness with a sense of worry and reflection. Although this sentimentality within the illustrations is a powerful representation of the subtext of Antonio’s worry about ending up lonely if he separates from Leslie in response to his classmates’ teasing, that feeling of a void starts on the first page, despite the fact that the narrative is well paced and complex, without being overwhelming.
While the teasing of the children seems like a mere catalyst for Antonio’s rediscovering and affirming his bond with Leslie, the imagery of the story is as weighty as the emotional milieu created by E.B. Lewis’ illustrations in Jacqueline Woodson’s Each Kindness, a book which was only about the refusal of children to befriend a new student. In Antonio’s Card/La Tarjeta de Antonio, the illustrations allude to what is unspoken in the text—a sentiment of something missing in the lives of these characters who seem to be smiling through emotional pain. Perhaps this is meant to convey the way that Antonio sees his world as one in which no one ever fully smiles and this is the way the illustrator is allowing emotions regarding the absent father who went back to Mexico to influence the text, since the author doesn’t give voice to Antonio’s feelings about his father being gone. What is clear by the end of the story is that one of the things which shames Antonio—Leslie’s splattered paint overalls— becomes evidence of Leslie’s bond with Antonio and his mother—a portrait of his mother that Leslie has painted as a Mother’s Day present. When Antonio sees the painting, his viewing of it becomes the turning point in Antonio’s journey towards family acceptance in face of the adversity of verbal teasing.
There are some who would categorize this story in the anti-bullying category of their collection and while I wouldn’t, the text and illustrations’ depthful representations of a child’s emotional vulnerability to teasing in general and especially in regards to their loved ones, makes this a story that can easily demonstrate how much words hurt in a curriculum on bullying and compassion. But, without a guide, children will easily understand Antonio’s sensitivity toward his stepmom and his peers in this story whose natural complexity and convincing narrative make it well worth its status as a Lambda Literary Finalist. (buy)
Recommendation: Highly recommended; ages 7+
Reviewer: Omilaju Miranda
The Family Book by Todd Parr
Todd Parr makes the idea of family a fun thing to read about in this book illustrated with crayon-colored people. The silly illustrations and simple statements give the reader a feeling of “family” meaning acceptance more than anything else. Using animals and people to represent the many different family structures in our society, this is an easy, sensory stimulating, colorful way to introduce or further conversation on family diversity with your children, especially small children.
Recommendation: Recommended; 2+
Reviewer: Omilaju Miranda
Documentary Film –“Off and Running: An American Coming of Age Story” by Avery Klein-Cloud and Nicole Opper
Spanning two years in the life of high school track star, Avery Klein-Cloud, this is the documentary of her journey to reconnect with her birth mother. New Yorker Avery Klein-Cloud is the African American daughter of two white Jewish mothers and sister to two brothers –one Korean and the other African American and Puerto Rican. The documentary opens with Avery reaching out to her birth mother and in a heart wrenching, emotional journey of attempting to balance living a high performer’s daily life with hoping to fill in the voids of her identity, we watch Avery struggle with both of her families, school, and a new found Black awareness as part of her personal self-knowing. At the risk of spoiling, this film is a testimony to the power that love and raising a child with all possible social, familial, and educational advantages have to make sure that those who lose their way make it back home.
I highly recommend this film for everyone and definitely for transracial families and soon-to-be transracial adoptive parents.
Available on Netflix , Shop PBS, and Amazon.
–Transracial Adopted Child (African American/Jewish)
Recommendation: Highly Recommended
Reviewer: Omilaju Miranda
In Our Mothers’ House by Patricia Polacco
This is one of the best first person narrative children’s books I’ve ever read. The voice is so authentic I thought it was a children’s nonfiction story until I read the back bookflap. An African descendant woman tells the story of her life with her two mothers, Asian brother and carrot-top sister from their at-birth adoptions until their parents pass away, leaving the family home to the protagonist’s brother. Polacco’s narrative style is one of such candor and fluidity that as the protagonist shares with us the milestones of her life from becoming a big sister to seeing her mothers in dresses for the first time to finding emotional comfort in the home after her parents pass away , the reader is increasingly emotionally invested in their ever expanding world of friends, family and tradition. Polacco also includes the conflict of an anti-gay neighbor in the book, who turns the dial up on that confrontational anti-gay anger pretty high without actually saying “lesbian, gay, or homosexual.” The mothers handle the confrontation in a protective and reassuring manner that gives parents reading this book with children the freedom to explain as little or as much about sexual orientation as parents wish, including saying nothing about sexual orientation and just explaining that sometimes people don’t like others who are different. Illustrated with engaging animation and expressiveness, readers will see and feel a full spate of emotions as we do in real life. While the mothers demonstrate friendly touch affection towards each other and familial touch affection toward the children, for some, it will be important to see that the three children enter heterosexual marriages, framed in family portraits near the end of the book. The choice to show the oldest daughter and the son married to people within their “own” racial groups, demonstrates to me a silent acknowledgement of efforts made by the Italian and English-Irish mothers to encourage, support and preserve their children’s unique cultural identities. Complete with three children who grow up to become successful professionals with happy families of their own, In Our Mothers’ House is the multi-dimensional All American LGBT-parent family story.
Recommendation: Highly Recommended; ages 6+
Reviewer: Omilaju Miranda
Molly’s Family by Nancy Garden
Kids don’t bite their tongue and with the blunt challenge of a six-year-old, Nancy Garden starts this story in which the protagonist, Molly responds verbally and emotionally to her classmate telling her that she can’t have the two mothers that she has drawn as part of her family make up. Molly’s mothers are her birth mother and adoptive mother (which is an important distinction in this category of books that have a strong representation of families made through adoption instead of one of the partners giving birth) but Molly doesn’t know those facts until later in the story when her mothers explain that to her . The teacher and a couple of Molly’s classmates are sympathetic to her hurt feelings and discomfort. Following the incident in the classroom, the teacher and then both of Molly’s mothers explain to her that the family you have is the family that is both possible and real. But the issue is not solved for Molly with these affirmations; she is still unsure of the validity of her two mother family, she is aware of her difference and has lost her confidence which is demonstrated by her leaving the drawing of her family at home on the 2nd day of the story. In a believable parallel with the process children whose home culture is significantly different from the societal norm go through to move from shame and insecurity to validation and acceptance of their families, it is only when the teacher tells Molly again that a child can have two mothers that Molly finally opens up to observing the ways that others are different and her family is real. Realistic illustrations and believable dialogue strengthen this story that gives a child of gay parents an understanding of their validity and other children an understanding of how families differ and live in harmony.
Recommendation: Highly Recommended; ages 5+
Reviewer: Omilaju Miranda
Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman
A book review page that gives pointed attention to lesbian and gay parent led families can only be complete with a review of this classic book which was the first book ever published in the United States featuring a daughter of two mothers. Out of print now, you will either find this book at your library or buy it through a used bookseller (used copies start at $13; new copies start at $29 plus shipping). The story is a straightforward narrative introducing the reader to Heather and her family, which includes her, her two mommies, a cat and a dog. When she goes to daycare, Heather learns that not having a dad is weird, which saddens her to the point of tears. The teacher and other children are sympathetic and discuss how their families have different relationships with father figures as well, from not having a father, to having two daddies, or grandparents as primary caregivers. The black and white pencil drawings add poignancy and depth to the story. Children and adults will also be drawn into the attention given to children’s participation and representation of their world as the children’s drawings of their families are shown to the reader. The text and illustrations evocatively portray the universal vulnerability of children in the face of feeling like an outsider, their dependency on parental love and the neighborly generosity they express when coming from loving homes.
Recommendation: Recommended; ages 3-8
Reviewer: Omilaju Miranda
A Tale of Two Mommies by Vanita Oelschlager
All dialogue, this rhyming book is a conversation between the adopted son of two others and his friends while the protagonist and his friends play on the beach. As they run, play ball, swim, and have other beach fun, the questions and answers volley in sets of two. “Which mom is there when you want to go fishing? Which mom helps out when Kitty goes missing?” “Mommy helps when I want to go fishing, Both mommies help when Kitty goes missing.” The narrative continues in such a trajectory until it includes answers in which the protagonist says he is the one doing certain things. This is a full portrait of the emotional and activity life of a family from the perspective of a child who is increasingly taking on responsibilities. The child happens to be the African-Descendant child of two white moms but that is not discussed. This is a story with which every child who has taken note of how their parents nurture and mentor them, can identify.
Recommendation: Recommended; ages Ages 2-8
Reviewer: Omilaju Miranda