July 8, 2013

Non-Traditional Families

So I had heard wonderful things about both the narrative and the illustrations in Justin Richardson's and Peter Parnell's And Tango Makes Three. Although it's been around a while, I finally got my hands on it a few days ago, and it definitely didn't disappoint. Based on the true story of two male penguins who partner with each other instead of finding female mates, And Tango Makes Three is the story of Roy and Silo, two male penguins who end up raising a baby penguin together. A zookeeper notices that two of the male penguins are acting as though they are a couple--they sleep together, cuddle, and spend most of their time with each other. When other penguin couples' eggs start hatching the two male penguins "adopt" a rock with the hope of it hatching a baby for them. The zookeeper notes Roy and Silo's dedication to the rock, and ends up giving the couple an egg to nurture. And thus a non-traditional family is born. It's a wonderful and heartwarming story, and the illustrations are just as touching:






After reading this book I realized that non-traditional families are springing up all over the place, and that picturebooks are truly a wonderful medium to discuss them. When I went through my library, however, I found few books that fit the bill. One is Barefoot Book's Motherbridge of Love. Illustrated by Josée Masse, Motherbridge of Love tells the story of an adopted girl and the strength she gains from having two mothers, a birthmother and an adoptive mother. The text for the book was actually submitted anonymously to the charity Mother Bridge of Love by a woman who had recently adopted a child, and it is reprinted at the beginning of the book in Chinese, once again highlighting the bridge between the girl's Chinese birth and Western home:


Original poem in Chinese


It's a lovely example of a book that showcases a non-nuclear family and helps children see the beauty of their past.

As far as books in my personal library, Stellaluna was the only other exampleI have of a non-traditional family. When Stellaluna loses her mother to an owl attack, the baby bat survives by landing in a bird's nest below. The nest is already inhabited by a family of birds, and it is this family that gives Stellaluna a chance at a family again. The bat learns to adapt to her new surroundings and even takes on habits of the birds:


Stellaluna being fed like a bird

Again, a great example of a non-traditional family. And what makes each of these books even better is that they don't feel didactic--they're not entitled "My Friend Has Two Daddies" or "I'm the Only Bat in a Family of Birds." Instead they organically introduce the idea of a non-nuclear family as a wonderful story, not a didactic lesson.

Can anyone else speak to other picturebooks about families that aren't particularly nuclear?

Non-traditionally yours,
Mel