Home Book Collections Love Is Love Is Love – Diverse Family Constellations In Kids Books

Love Is Love Is Love – Diverse Family Constellations In Kids Books

via Ashia

[Image description: A multiracial & transracial family of three with two-mothers and their infant cuddle and play on a picnic blanket. From an interior page from Littles And How They Grow, by Kelly DiPucchio & AG Ford.]


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All Families Are Real Families

When I moved to a suburb full of wealthy, white, conservative nuclear families as a kid, the school administration was so concerned for my psyche, they pulled me out of class for weekly group therapy with the other three single-parent kids and suggested my mom send me to private therapy.

I wasn’t exactly reeling from growing up in a single-parent household – it was all I had ever known.

And this is how, from the very start, we systemically stigmatize of non-nuclear & non-heteronormative families.

We need more books with accurate representation of diverse family constellations. Kids don’t become criminals and ne’er-do-wells because they don’t have exactly 2.0 biologically-related cishet color-matched parents, 1.5 siblings and a dog named Spot.

Nuclear Family Supremacy! LET’S SMASH IT.

A Quick Guide to book types:

  • Validating books help kids with similar experiences know they aren’t alone. They might be problematic (reinforcing stereotypes, etc). with the wrong readers, so please use them cautiously.
  • Destigmatizing books help kids of privilege empathize with under-represented identities and experiences.
  • Normalizing books show all kids that we have more in common that not – everyone belongs and has a right to be represented without being tokenized.

ACCESSIBILITY: Images in this post are covers from the books mentioned in accompanying text. Captions feature the age when my kids ‘got’ the story.
*FTC DISCLOSURE: The publisher of The Zero Dads Club, and Super Power Baby Shower, Flamingo Rampant, sent me free digital review copies of their books so I could check them out. Flamingo Rampant is not a sponsor of BFL at this time and I wasn’t paid to include any of the books listed here. This post and Books for Littles is actually brought to you by awesome, kind, and generous readers like you.


The Best Family Constellation Books

Ages 3+

A Family is a Family is a Family was* my super-duper favorite-est book representing all kinds of families – including same-sex parents, multiracial families, large families, single-parents, shared-custody, blended families, disabled parents, and grandparents as primary caretakers.

*Update: See the comments below, where TJ noticed a scene in this book that is problematic for objectifying adopted children.

The reason this one had bubbled up to my top-most favorite is the way it smacks down condescension against foster-families. Foster kids are often left out of these books, or they’re an afterthought because…some people don’t count them as families. GRRR.

ALL families are real. A family is a family is a family, just like Love is love is love is love.

Ages 4.5

*The Zero Dads Club is a validating book for kids with single parents, nonbinary parents, trans moms, lesbian moms, adoptive parents, and kids raised by extended family. The writing is a bit clunky, there’s not much of a story, and it’s a little ableist (‘dumb’ is used as a pejorative, and the makers include a physically disabled character that plays into shy/helpless stereotypes).

But I’m glad it exists, since it includes LGBTQ+ constellations I haven’t seen anywhere else.


Adoptive & Transracial Families

My New Mom & Me (validating), Real Sisters Pretend (validating, destigmatizing), All Together Now (validating, destigmatizing), And Tango Makes Three (destigmatizing), How Nivi Got Her Names (open adoption, normalizing), Something Good (normalizing)

Ages 2.5+

Ages 4+

Ages 2+

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Ages 3.5+

Ages 4.5+

4+

 


 

Foster Families

Duck (validating for parents), Pup and Bear (destigmatizing)

Recommended with caution: A Family is A Family is A Family (validating for kids, destigmatizing )- see comments below on how possible adoption scene could be objectifying.)


 

Single-Mothers

Away (validating, normalizing), What’s My Superpower? (normalizing), How Mamas Love Their Babies (destigmatizing)

Ages 5.5+

Ages 3.5+

Ages 5+

 


invisible line

Check out: All The Single Mamas – Triumphant Stories Appreciating Single Mothers


Single Fathers

Enemy Pie (normalizing), Hush a Bye, Baby (normalizing), Dad by My Side (validating, destigmatizing)

Ages 5-8

Newborn to 3.5 years

Ages 3+

 


Check out: Raising Tomorrow’s Fathers – Books Featuring Loving Dads


 

Two-Dad Families

Harriet Gets Carried Away (normalizing), Stella Brings The Family (validating, destigmatizing), One Dad, Two Dads, Brown Dads, Blue Dads (destigmatizing)

 


Two-Mom Families

A Flock of Shoes (normalizing), Heather Has Two Mommies (destigmatizing, validating), In Our Mother’s House (validating)

Ages 2+

Ages 3+

Ages 6+

 

 


Same-Sex Parents – Compilations

One Little Two Little Three Little Children (normalizing), Blanket of Love (normalizing), Everywhere Babies (normalizing), Littles And How They Grow (normalizing)

1.5+

Newborn to 4 years

6 months+

Ages 2.5-5

 


Multiracial Families

These days most of my kids’ friends are mixed-race. Yet, after 30+ years of strangers asking me ‘So, what ARE you?‘ and facing racism from both whites and Asians who’d prefer the races not mix, I’d like to remind everyone not to get complacent. This fight isn’t over.

My Two Grannies (validating), All The World (normalizing), Spork (validating, destigmatizing)

Ages 5+

Ages 3+

Ages 3.5+

 



Check out: Justifying Our Existence – Stories Featuring Multiracial Families



 

Polya/Polyam Families

Izzy’s Sick Day (normalizing), Raf And The Robots (normalizing, but ambiguous), *Super Power Baby Shower (normalizing), Love, Z (normalizing, but ambiguous)

Ages 2.5+

Ages 4.5+

Super Power Baby Shower

Ages 5+

invisible line

Ages 3.5-8


Extended Family Guardians

Books that include grandparents, aunts, and uncles as caretakers.

Dear Baobab (aunt and uncle, validating), One Family (grandparent, normalizing), Two Is Enough (grandmother, validating), Polka Dot Fixes Kindergarten (grandfather, normalizing), Those Shoes (grandmother, normalizing), Julián Is A Mermaid* (grandmother/abuela, normalizing), Akilak’s Adventure (grandmother, normalizing, mentions death of parents).

It’s worth mentioning that while this book is super sweet and affirming, there are some issues with how Love, a white allocishet author appropriated and whitewashed the experience of a Dominican child of color.

Ages 6+

Ages 3.5-5

Ages 3.5+

invisible line

Ages 5+

Ages 4+

Ages 3+

 

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Ages 5+

 


Blended Families – Divorce/Co-Parenting & Shared Custody

I Have Two Homes (validating, during & after divorce), Living With Mom And Living With Dad (destigmatizing, validating, post-divorce), The Mirror In Mommy’s House / The Mirror In Daddy’s House (destigmatizing, validating, post-divorce), Fred Stays With Me (validating, post-divorce, but with a dog welcome in both homes.)

All of these books are heteronormative for middle/upper-income families, with both parents sharing custody. I’ll update this collection once I find more variety.

Ages 4.5+

Ages 2-5

Ages 2-5

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Ages 4-8

 


Blended Families – Step-Parents

The Memory String (validating, step-mother), Boundless Grace (validating, destigmatizing, step-mother & siblings*), When Otis Courted Mama (validating, mom’s boyfriend), The Day Santa Stopped Believing In Harold (normalizing, with a white-presenting son and mother and Black step-father referred to as ‘dad.’)

Ages 5+

Ages 4+

Ages 3.5+

 

invisible line


Blended Families – Siblings

Sam Is My Half-Brother* (validating, sibling rivalry), When I Am A Sister (validating, new baby)

*Check out JF’s discussion on why we try to avoid using the phrase ‘half-siblings’ in the comments section below. It’s wonderful.

Ages 3+

Ages 3.5+

 



Stay Curious, Stand Brave & Speak Up

I’m a multiracial, autistic, cishet mom co-parenting my biologically-related kids with a partner. I was raised by a white single mother, have three step-siblings, and two adopted brothers. I am not adopted, don’t know what it’s like to be raised by same-sex parents or two parents, etc. and make mistakes. So if I’ve missed anything problematic in the above books, leave a comment so we can all learn.

It’s taken me over seven years to research, vet, and regularly update this collection. If you found it  helpful, follow Books for Littles on Patreon to help more families benefit from this work.

Become a Patron!

 

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8 observations

Avatar
JF October 9, 2018 - 2:22 PM

I’m SO happy to see Everywhere Babies here. I bought that book on a whim when my 12 year old was a baby, and I have always been so thrilled by how it normalizes so many things: same sex families, breastfeeding AND bottle feeding, strollers AND carriers, etc.

I want to point out one thing: as the mother of “half” siblings, I really, really detest this term. I birthed three children–two from one father, and the third from another father. My son is not the “half-brother” of my daughters. He is their brother. Full stop. I find that this term helps insert a division between the children and, frankly, it’s not something we encourage in other family arrangements. You see a lot of writing, for example, about how it’s not appropriate to refer to someone’s adopted child as “your adopted son”–he’s their son. That’s it. I don’t know if there is a big debate about the “half” term because my youngest (from the second father) is only a year old and I have literally not had a moment to even research this, but I wanted to point it out because I thought you would find it relevant.

PS Love your work!!

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Ashia October 10, 2018 - 11:58 PM

JF – This is spectacular, thank you! I’ll update the language in the post – you make such a good point <3

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JF October 12, 2018 - 10:27 AM

Oh, thank you so much for responding and for changing it! I’m glad to hear that you think it’s a valid thought and not just an over-reaction. It’s something I feel very strongly about.

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Ashia October 15, 2018 - 12:42 PM

I’m always grateful for insight like this – thanks for taking the time to point this out! Challenging someone’s language is often scary and it takes a good deal of courage. I’m grateful <3

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tj August 9, 2019 - 5:57 PM

I picked up “A Family is A Family is A Family” and it was great except for the pages about adoption – the image of a mail-order baby was pretty dehumanizing to me, particularly as a transracial adoptee who was essentially “shipped” the US. It is also odd since none of the other examples in the book are so exaggerated. I want to use it in my classroom, but if I remove those pages, I remove adoption from the story, and that’s definitely not what I want to do. Hoping something better comes around soon.

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Ashia August 11, 2019 - 11:11 PM

Ohhh no! I’m so sorry. It never occurred to me that this scene was an adoption – I interpreted it as a child whose parent hadn’t told them about how babies are born. Which of course, is me centering biological siblings as the norm, and isn’t okay. Given the narrative of transnational adoption, particularly as told by a non-adopted sibling, that scene is definitely problematic.

Thank you for pointing this out. I will add a note to this collection and other places I’ve discussed it.

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Alyssa Messman July 29, 2020 - 10:38 AM

Have you read Home at Last by Vera B. Williams? It’s about a boy who is adopted from foster care by a male couple. It’s one of the few picture books that I’ve seen address lingering trauma that doesn’t magically go away when a child is adopted. But I don’t really know enough about trauma or adoption to know if the book does a good job or not. I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts.

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Ashia August 2, 2020 - 1:40 PM

That’s a good point – that story doesn’t try to erase the hard origin and continued trauma of adoption. Honestly though – the way the story is put together felt so clunky and weird. I can’t speak as an adopted person, but just from a perspective of it being a book for children, to me it felt jumbled together and poorly executed, so the attempt at validating pain kind of got lost somewhere in there.

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