Rainbow families

Below is a selection of great stories focused on rainbow families. Don’t forget to look at our General Families page, as there are many more titles that depict rainbow families together with other family types.

A Tale of Two Mommies

Vanita Oelschlager (author) and Mike Blanc (illustrator)
Vanita Books: 2011
ISBN: 9780982636664 (hbk)
ISBN: 9780982636671 (pbk)
Age: 3+

Reviewed by Viv Young

A boy, swimming at the beach, answers his friends’ questions about which parent does what at his house. The boy confidently answers Momma or Mommy or sometimes both.

The fast-paced rhyme in A Tale of Two Mommies complements the fun and light-hearted tone of this story. There is a poignant aspect too as the little boy regularly informs his friends that both mums help him out when challenging situations arise such as bullying. The children asking questions do so in a spirit of curiosity and interest. Their questions do reflect traditional gender roles common in some households (e.g. ‘Which mom is there when you want to go fishing? Which mom helps out when kitty goes missing?’) but the ‘norms’ presented and challenged may provide interesting points of discussion for all kinds of families.

The artwork for A Tale of Two Mommies suits the kid-centred Q & A. The images are consistently drawn from the child’s perspective—the mums are only pictured from the waist down as if we’re all looking up as kids so often have to do. The cartoon images in bright block colours and the many beach backgrounds contribute to the carefree mood in this clever picture book.

A Tale of Two Daddies is also available. It adopts the same premise, Q & A approach, and artwork style.

Daddy, Papa, and me

Lesléa Newman (author) and Carol Thompson (illustrator)
Penguin: 2009  (reprint)
ISBN: 9781582462622
Age: 0+

Reviewed by Viv Young

‘Who wants to play with me today?’ asks a child. Daddy and Papa both say, ‘I do!’ And there begins a day of make-believe, music and more before Daddy and Papa both need a rest!

Daddy, Papa, and Me is about a loving family enjoying a whole day of (exhausting) play. The rhyme is simple and lends itself to the central child character who narrates the day’s activities. The sketchy artworks are relaxed, lively and full of colour — they capture the delight of parents and child as well as the hectic pace of play. Daddy, Papa, and me is a heart-warming story with a cheeky twist at the end just for little readers who may be more used to seeing the child put to sleep at the end of most picture books.

And Tango makes Three

Justin Richardson (author) and Peter Parnell (author) and Henry Cole (illustrator)
Simon & Schuster: 2010 (later editions also available)
ISBN: 9781481446952
AGE: 3+

Reviewed by Viv Young

In New York’s Central Park Zoo two male chinstrap penguins named Roy and Silo fall in love. They do everything together—walk together, swim together, sing to each other and make a nest just like the boy-girl penguin couples. While baby penguins hatch for the other couples, there is no new baby for Roy and Silo, until keeper Mr Ganzay puts an egg in their nest. The two penguins studiously sit on the nest and hatch a baby girl penguin. The keeper calls her Tango and she’s the first baby in the zoo to have two daddies to look after her.

This true story (see the author’s note at the back of the book) draws attention to the diversity of family types and stresses points of commonality between families—Roy and Silo hatch and look after Tango as any other penguin family would. While the middle section of the book, which discusses Roy and Silo’s empty nest, is sad, the ending is joyous and points towards the love and acceptance with which the Zoo’s patrons greet the new arrival Tango. The illustrations are a delight, especially the series of vignettes which capture the romance of the two penguin leads, their diligent nesting, and child rearing efforts—perfect for encouraging the interest and imagination of small readers.

Heather Has Two Mummies

Lesléa Newman (author) Laura cornell (illustrator)
Walker Books 2015 (first self published in 1989 )
ISBN: 9781406359404
AGE: 3+

Reviewed by Viv Young

Heather’s favourite number is two. She has two pets and two mummies and eats two ginger snap biscuits when she bakes with her mummies on rainy days. When mama Jane and mama Kate tell Heather that she’s about to start school she picks two favourite things to take with her and has a great time playing with all the toys and kids. After a nap the children discuss their parents’ professions (Mama Kate is a doctor and Mama Jane is a carpenter) with their teacher Miss Molly. A boy asks Heather what her daddy does. She replies that she doesn’t have a daddy and wonders if she is the only one there who doesn’t. Miss Molly helps the children explore their different families through artworks, emphasising that every family is special and that love is the most important part of a family.

This beautiful story about diverse family types, with its affirming emphasis on love, is a classic and pioneering children’s book originally self-published and community funded in 1989. It takes an apt moment in a child’s life—first day at school—to stage a discussion of family types just as children naturally come into contact with a wider sphere of influences. The 2015 edition has been updated with wonderful illustrations. These are bright, full of life and warmth, perfect for depicting the happy family portrayed in the text. These updated illustrations also depict the progress made since 1989 on marriage equality (look out for Mama Jane and Mama Kate’s wedding rings). This is a great book for children of LGBTI parents but equally enjoyable for children of all different types of families, who can have fun discussing whose family among Heather’s classmates most resembles their own.

For more about the inspiration and publication of this classic work read this article on the Horn Book website.

Plenty of Hugs

Fran Manushkin (author) and Kate Alizadeh (illustrator)
Penguin: 2020
ISBN: 9780525554011
Age: 0+
Reviewed by Viv Young

Two Mums and their toddler enjoy a day out together; they visit the sea and the zoo and share a meal before the night time routine. As the reader journeys with them, the rhyming text loosely echoes the day’s events while raising themes of belonging and abundance (‘There’s a buzz for each bug, and a breeze for each tree, and plenty of hugs for you and me’).

Plenty of Hugs is an uplifting story for all families to share with their children. Its tone is warm and carefree, but the themes in it are deeply moving and well suited to parents searching for that special book with which to enrich their family’s feeling of connectedness. 

The sketchy illustrations convey all the relaxing warmth of a summer’s day spent with loved ones. The colours are bright but full of space and light; they build on the text’s joyous tone while the gestures and body language of the three central characters enrich the poignant message of the text.  

Stella Brings the Family

Miriam B Schiffer (author) and Holly Clifton-Brown (illustrator)
Chronicle Books: 2015
ISBN: 9781452111902
Age: 4+
Reviewed by Viv Young

Stella has a loving family—there are her two dads and also her grandparents, a special uncle, aunt, and cousin. But who will Stella bring to the Mother’s Day Party at school? Don’t worry, one of her friends has a very good idea.

Stella Brings the Family explores one girl’s concern about celebrating a popular holiday and through this topic touches on the different family types represented in her class at school and her own secure relationship with her dads. Stella is a strong character who is allowed to delineate her concern precisely; while her friends start to ask questions about what it’s like not to have a Mum, Stella firmly explains that the only problem is the upcoming Mother’s Day party at school. Her responses to questions, nevertheless, help build a picture of her happy home life. There’s also humour built into the narrative that balances the more serious concern Stella feels about Mother’s Day with some fun.

The artwork for Stella Brings the Family makes great use of patterns and warm inviting colours. The patterns, especially for the end pages, recall home with all its everyday items (i.e. buttons, bow pasta) and are a constant reminder of Stella’s contentment at home.

Worm Loves Worm

J. J. Austrian and Mike Curato
Balzer & Bray (Harper Collins): 2016
ISBN: 9780062386335
Age: 3+

Reviewed by Viv Young

Worm loves worm so they’ve decided to get married. The garden creatures help by telling the worms all the things they will need to do for a wedding ceremony. Worm and worm do their best to follow their friends’ advice, but some traditions will have to change because worm loves worm.

Worm Loves Worm is a witty picture book with a thoughtful message. Worm and Worm are delightfully strong characters— they calmly meet all their friends requirements but stay true their own feelings too. The garden creatures who have so much advice to give are a hoot—there are the bride’s bees, the sage cricket, and even a spider who may be about to eat some of the guests! The artwork is spare; lots of blank space allows the humour of the worms’ subtle gestures to stand out as they attempt to fit in with many wedding conventions. While a lot of the story keeps you guessing with the focus on wedding traditions and preparations, there is a touching end which draws attention to the modern marriage equality debate and insists on the triumph of love.

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