Please welcome Megan Dowd Lambert with her list of Eight Picture Books with Diverse Family Constellations.
Because of my lived experience as a mother in a multiracial, adoptive, queer, blended family, I appreciate seeing representations of families in picture books that exist and thrive outside of a White, heteronormative, nuclear family structure. I like writing such stories, too! Real Sisters Pretend, illustrated by Nicole Tadgell, is an adoption story that was inspired by two of my daughters, and its characters include two moms, one who is Asian and one who is White, and their two adopted daughters, one who is Black and one who is a multiracial child of color. It was published by Tilbury House in 2016, and was named a Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People 2017. It’s also included on the Center for the Study of Multicultural Children’s Literature Best Books of 2016 list and the CCBC Choices 2017 list.
I hope that reading our picture book and others featuring diverse family constellations (I’ve included a list below) will help expand what Andrew Solomon calls “the ecosphere of kindness” when he writes: “I don’t accept subtractive models of love, only additive ones. And I believe that in the same way that we need species diversity to ensure that the planet can go on, so we need this diversity of affection and diversity of family in order to strengthen the ecosphere of kindness.”
Eight Picture Books with Diverse Family Constellations
1. Fred Stays with Me by Nancy Coffelt, illustrated by Tricia Tusa
A little girl whose parents are divorced splits her time between her mom’s house and her dad’s. Her dog, the eponymous Fred, also moves between homes, which gives her a sense of stability and consistency in her co-parenting, joint-custody family arrangement. [picture book, ages 3 and up]
2. Stella Brings the Family by Miriam Schiffer Baker, illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown
Stella has two dads and isn’t quite sure what to do for her class’s Mother’s Day celebration. Ultimately, she decides to bring both of her parents, as well as other family members who nurture her, and they are all affirmed and welcomed by everyone at school. [picture book, ages 5 and up]
3. Real Sisters Pretend by Megan Dowd Lambert, illustrated by Nicole Tadgell
Inspired by two of the author’s daughters, this is a story about adoptive sisters, Mia (who is multiracial) and Tayja (who is Back), who affirm their bonds with one another after a stranger questions whether they are “real sisters” since they don’t look alike. They punctuate their pretend play with conversation about their adoption stories, and it all culminates in a warm family hug with their two moms. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
4. Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers, illustrated by Marla Frazee
This joyful celebration of babies and babyhood depicts a multiracial cast of characters caring for babies in many different contexts. Depictions of a two-mom family in one scene and other couples who can be read as gay parents present on other spreads, create an inclusive vision in which diverse family constellations are a matter-of-fact part of society. [picture book, ages 0 and up]
5. Heather Has Two Mommies by Lesléa Newman, illustrated by Laura Cornell
An updated version of this groundbreaking picture book depicts Heather and her classmates telling one another about their diverse families, and their conversation quickly eases Heather’s initial worry that she might be the only one without a dad. When Heather’s mommies come to visit her school, they are delighted to see the picture she’s made of their family. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
6. A Family Is a Family Is a Family by Sara O’Leary, illustrated by Qin Leng
When a teacher asks her class to share something about their families, a foster child worries, “My family is not like everybody else’s.” This concern evaporates, however, as classmate after classmate describes a different family constellation, including two moms, two dads, many siblings, divorced parents, a blended family, single parents, mixed-race families, and more. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
7. More, More, More Said the Baby by Vera B. Williams
Three toddlers and their three caregivers are featured in individual, slice-of-life “love stories” with matter-of-fact multiracial diversity. A daddy, a grandma, and a mommy shower love on their little ones in spreads that are at turns playful and comforting.[picture book, ages 0 and up]
8. Pecan Pie Baby by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Sophie Blackall
A little girl is ambivalent, at best, about her single mother’s pregnancy with “that ding-dang baby.” Although she’s surrounded by love and support at her school and in her extended, multiracial family, others’ excitement about the baby exacerbates her worries. She ultimately is comforted by the knowledge that although her mother is happy about having a new baby, she’ll also miss times when it was just the two of them.[picture book, ages 4 and up]
Megan Dowd Lambert wears a lot of hats in this field as an author, reader, reviewer, professor at Simmons College, storytime reader, and mother of seven children.
To learn more about Megan Dowd Lambert, please check out her website, Facebook, and Twitter.
Bianca Muñoz says
Last Stop on Market Street is one of our favorites! Thanks for the giveaway!
great titles here! I’ve got my multicultural children’s book day blog post ready to go for the 27th!
Alyssa Annico says
We just added a great new one to our library called “We Are Family”!
Becky Morales says
I love Saturdays and Domingos because it was the first book that showed my kids that sometimes families speak different languages 🙂
Beth T. says
Misadventures of the Family Fletcher is one I just discovered and am crazy about.
Kristen Picone says
Some I have and some were new to me! Thank you for sharing this list! Our classroom libraries need to reflect all family constellations.
All from the list are new to me but if I will choose I love those theme that is present in the latest movie I watched – Coco. The movie is really just too good and heartwarming. I love all the songs there, too.
Tara Chappell says
All the books are pretty new to me…but “A Family Is a Family Is a Family” looks like a great read!