We're in a phase right now around our house that is simultaneously the most entertaining and the most annoying one ever -- the "why" phase. I thought we'd been through this once before, and we had, but this new incarnation seems to be a deeper and more questioning one. Now instead of "why is the car wet?" it's more "why does it rain?". Everything is more philosophical. And it's great, if a bit frustrating when the question is something like "why are pancakes made out of eggs and milk and flour and salt?" (an honest-to-goodness query from last night's dinner).
So a quick flip through today's pick, Who's In My Family? by Robie H. Harris, told me this one would be just the thing for Sprout's current quizzical turn. Harris's goal with this and her other titles, including books on bodies, birth and health, is to present information in a clear and age-appropriate manner. And clarity is certainly the watchword here: Harris examines all the facets of what makes up a family, as well as the various aspects that different family members may either share or that may differ from person to person.
There's a lot here to recommend it as an addition for home libraries and classrooms alike. The prose is concise and straightforward, easy for kids to understand, which parents and teachers will appreciate. While the dialogue between the two main characters, Nellie and Gus, is a little stilted, the general upbeat tone works well with the pictures. Nadine Bernard Westcott did the illustrations, and they are charming, lively and fun, with lots of small details that make the spreads visually appealing. A whole chunk of the book centers around a trip to the zoo, so there are even family groups among animals shown here, reinforcing the overall message of Harris's text.
A big plus for us is the diversity - transracial families are featured prominently, as are same-sex parents, extended family members, older parents, and characters with disabilities. Differences are discussed in an open manner, and I appreciate Harris's no-nonsense approach to matters like varying skin colors within a family unit. This is great not only for kids whose families don't "match", like ours, but even more critical for families who do match, so all children can see that the bonds that unite family members go far beyond similarities in hair or skin color.
When you're looking to tackle the big topics with your kiddo, books like Who's In My Family? are exactly what you want on hand. And maybe a few adults should read it too -- you know, to remind us that "Most of all, and most of the time, and no matter what -- children and grown-ups and their families really do love one another!".
Who's In My Family? by Robie H. Harris, published by Candlewick Press
Sample: "Parents, sisters, brothers, grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles can all be part of a child's family. Often, good friends or a pet can be part of a child's family too."