Celebrating three things in our household: the first day of September, the publication of A Family Is a Family Is a Family (out today in Canada and then September 13 in the US), and finally, an absolute peach of a review by Bernie Goedhart of The Montreal Gazette.
Each spread shows a distinctive child (easy to find in the classroom scene) with equally distinctive parents and siblings. A little boy has two moms who “like to sing really loud,” while another has two dads who “both give good hugs” as they tuck him in at night. One girl spends one week with Mom and the next week with Dad; “Fair’s fair,” she says. One boy’s mom, who is confined to a wheelchair, told him that “before I was born I grew in her heart.”
In every case, the scenes are filled with joy. The narrator needn’t have worried about her family being different; each family in this book is unique. (Adults reading the book aloud to their offspring will likely find some comments especially touching. The little girl who lives with her grandmother, for example, says “people sometimes think she’s my mother. She’s not. She’s my everything.”)
And the narrator? It turns out she’s a foster child. By the time her turn rolls around, she knows just what to tell the class. She talks about the time someone asked her mother which of the three children with her in the park are her real children. The mother’s response is O’Leary’s writing at its best! And Leng’s triumphant final spread says it all.
It's traditional to praise the intelligence of reviewers who like your work, but I truly am consistently impressed with the calibre of Goedhart's reviews and her ability to contextualize new children's books (I've just been off googling Bob Graham, whose work I was sadly ignorant of). I am also very pleased to live in a city with a newspaper that boasts a dedicated children's book reviewer.