[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
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.
*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)
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.)
Same-Sex Parents – Compilations
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.
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.
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.
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.’)
Blended Families – Siblings
*Check out JF’s discussion on why we try to avoid using the phrase ‘half-siblings’ in the comments section below. It’s wonderful.
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.