Samantha Thornhill’s A Card for my Father

A Card for My FatherA Card for my Father, written by Samantha Thornhill and illustrated by Morgan Clement, is brilliantly and beautifully told from the point-of-view of Flora Gardner, a little girl who has never met her father.

Flora has light brown skin and big expressive eyes underlined by a dash of freckles. Readers are introduced to her as she sits in a classroom, head resting on her hand as she contemplates how much she dislikes Father’s Day.

Flora has never met her father. The awkwardness of her classmates excitedly crafting Father’s Day cards makes her want “to melt into her chair.” She notices another student, the pale-rosy skinned loner Jonas Borkholder, slouching in his seat instead of participating in the card making frenzy. It’s later revealed that his father has passed away. Clement carefully communicates their pain in images that disrupt the lighthearted atmosphere in the classroom. The reader is forced to take account of those children who don’t have fathers to celebrate.

The text gracefully moves back-and-forth through time. but with purpose and control that makes it easy for young readers to follow. For instance, in an extended flashback it is revealed that Flora’s mother shuts down whenever Flora asks about her father. When her mom has had enough, she tells Flora her father is “a ghost with a heartbeat.” And, his absence haunts her.

Back in the text’s present, Flora sits in class listening to her peers tell stories about their fathers. She imagines herself in their tales, with a father like the ones they describe. But when she remembers the “faceless phantom” who is her father she feels “like an eel at the bottom of the sea.”

Flora tries to avoid going to her school’s Father’s Day picnic, but her mother isn’t having it. At school, instead of sharing a blanket with her father she shares it with her teacher. That is, until her mom surprises her by showing up at the picnic. Although Flora’s thrilled, she is still consumed with contacting her father and asks her mother if he might write her back if she sent a letter. Her mother finally relents and says: “There’s only one way to find out.” The phantom takes solid form through Clement’s illustration of a man wearing a shirt with the letters INMA… scrolled across the back.

I participated as a reviewer in Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2019 and during the group’s Twitter party so many people were asking for children’s books about incarcerated parents. A Card for my Father doesn’t just fill a gap on the bookshelf, it does it very well. This book is special.

Thornhill can’t stop herself from writing poetry, and Clement’s images play an integral role in the story. Her illustrations give Flora’s feelings a heavy presence on the page. Word and image pair perfectly giving the subject matter engaged the dignity it deserves and gifting the world with a brilliant book.

Penny Candy Books sent me a copy of the book to review (at my request).

Abramchik’s Is Your Family Like Mine? (1993)

Written by Lois Abramchik, with realistic black and white charcoal illustrations by Alaiyo Bradshaw,  Is Your Family Like Mine? (1993) is about a little girl named Armetha. After starting Kindergarten, Armetha grows self-conscious that she doesn’t have a father. She begins to ask her diverse classmates about their families and realizes that some have divorced parents and live with step-familes, some have single parents, some live in foster care, and some live with a mom and dad. All families are different, but the most important thing is that they are connected by love.

Although Armetha accepts the lesson she learns from her friends, she asks her moms why she doesn’t have a daddy. They explain: “One kind of Daddy helps create babies and another kind helps raise them. You have the first kind of Daddy, who helped create you and you have two mommies who love you and will help you grow up.” Armetha is quite satisfied with this response.

I appreciated the focus on diverse family forms that doesn’t get stuck in a heterosexual/homosexual binary but shows single-parent and foster families offering loving alternatives to the heteronormative nuclear arrangement. Published by Open Heart, Open Mind, the book is professionally written and illustrated, which is not always the case with small publishers. Although similar themes are explored in newer books, this does stand the test of time! It is a sweet story about family likely to prompt productive conversations if added to personal or classroom libraries.

Jesse Unaapik Mike and Kerry McCluskey’s Families

Families (2017), co-written by Jesse Unaapik Mike and Kerry McCluskey and illustrated by Lenny Lishchenko, introduces young readers to family diversity through the lives of students at a school in Iqaluit, the capitol city of Nunavut, a Canadian territory, which is majority Inuit. The lesson that all families are different is deftly introduced as the protagonist, a child named Talittuq, moves through his first day of year two at school.

 

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Looking forward to reviewing these titles from Inhabit Media!

This weekend my family and I attended my not-so-little brother’s wedding in NJ. He married an amazing man who my son has always called uncle, and it was the first time I cried at a wedding.

Topping off a perfect weekend was a package from Inhabit Media containing Elisapee and Her Baby Seagull and Families.

I can’t wait to review these books! I already devoured Families and love it! Thank you Inhabit Media!