Vanita Oelschlager’s A Tale of Two Mommies (2011)

Ebook cover imageA Tale of Two Mommies (2011), written by Vanita Oelschlager and illustrated by Mike Blanc, is an affirming story about a little boy and his two moms.

Three small, racially diverse children enjoy a day at the beach. One of the children, a little boy, has tawny beige skin, another is a girl with suntanned skin and red hair, the boy with two mommies has medium brown skin, curly-hair, and big brown eyes. The two moms’ faces are never shown but they both have pale skin with pink undertones.

The little boy with two moms is bombarded with excited questions from his friends who are curious about what activities his momma does with him and what activities his mommy does with him. He answers their sometimes very silly questions with ease, demonstrating that his moms have all the important stuff like cake baking and boo-boo kissing covered.

A Tale of Two Mommies is a fun book. The colors are bright and sunny like the day at the beach the characters are enjoying. It’s an accessible book with a clever lyricism that makes it fun to read aloud. It will make a solid addition to family libraries of very young readers who are sure to giggle along with the characters as they find answers to important questions like which mom is the best kite flying partner.

I accessed a review copy through NetGalley.

Benjamin’s And Baby Makes Four (2009)

And Baby Makes Four, written by Judith Benjamin with photographic images by Judith Freedman, was published in 2009 by Motek Press. Lesbian moms and their young daughter prepare to welcome a new baby into their family.

The story is told in the first-person from the point-of-view of the couple’s young daughter. At the beginning of the short book, the young girl learns her mom is pregnant and that she will be a big sister. Pictures of her pregnant mother as well as ultrasound images show what the story tells.

Once her parents bring the new baby home, she begins to adjust to the cute but loud and attention-hogging new infant. This adjustment isn’t seamless. She has to get used to the good and not-so-good of being a big sister.

By the end of the brief book she has settled into her new life and enjoys her role in the family.

This is a good story to help young children process a new addition to their home! It is well-paced and accessible, helping children as young as three begin to grasp the changes that will occur.

I do not like the use of personal photographs in books. It feels too intimate; a reminder that you are clearly reading someone else’s story. I prefer the abstraction of illustrations because it makes it easier for readers to “step into” a story, so to speak. However, And Baby Makes Four does fill a niche and can be a useful aid to discussing the addition of new siblings.

Bey-Clarke and Clarke’s Keesha Series

I want to introduce readers to a small press worth following – My Family!/Dodi Press. My Family! specializes in reading material featuring diverse lesbian and gay parents swimming, vacationing, and preparing for science fairs with their happy children. The fact that the families are headed by same-sex parents is clear but not a theme explored.

Monica Bey-Clarke and Cheryl N. Clarke, the life partners, business partners, and co-writers running My Family! describe their goal as “creating a multi-cultural, positive and affirming library of children’s books that feature LGBT families.” They have succeeded and I think parents, educators, and librarians should take note. Along with books, My Family! offers diverse, LGB-inclusive coloring books and a board game.

A young black girl named Keesha and her two brown-skinned moms are featured in several books by the Bey-Clarke and Clarke, including the 2010 publication Keesha and Her Two Moms Go Swimming.

Keesha and Her Two Moms Go Swimming is a simple snapshot of a family’s day at a public pool. The book introduces readers to different family forms. For instance, Keesha’s best friend Trevor is at the pool with his two dads. It is a simple story with no major conflicts, which is refreshing in an LGB children’s picture book!

Keesha’s South African Trip is of a far better production quality. Although published six years after Keesha and Her Moms Go Swimming, Keesha seems to be about the same age. Her friend Trevor is reintroduced. The two children go to school together and learn about South Africa. Keesha is so excited she tells her moms all about what she learned and asks if they can go on a safari in Africa. They surprise her with the best birthday present ever – a trip to South Africa.

In South Africa, Keesha is introduced to new food and customs. She also gets to see some of the animals she learned about in school. When the family returns home, the bubbly and confident Keesha tells her class all about her adventure. Like Keesha and Her Moms Go Swimming, in Keesha’s South African Trip, Keesha is clearly a child with two mothers, but this fact is not commented on.

Keesha’s South African Trip is very engaging and warrants several reads. I appreciated the inclusion of South African foods and animals native to the region. It will be fun for young children, and many will appreciate the repetition of characters across texts in the two books.

The Keesha Series certainly serves an important niche in the LGB community and will be appreciated by many families for providing snapshots of same-sex couples parenting happy healthy children. Most books I come across with LGBT characters and themes deal with issues of inequality, shame, confusion, and bullying. It is important to be able to add books to the bookshelf that include lesbian and gay families without turning sexuality into a source of conflict.

Amy Asks a Question… Grandma – What’s a Lesbian? (1996)

Amy Asks a Question… Grandma – What’s a Lesbian? (1996) was written by Jeanne Arnold and illustrated by Barbaba Lindquist, partners and co-founders of the book’s publisher,  Mother Courage Press.

Amy, a young girl with lesbian grandmothers, is called a lesbian at school when her and some girl friends hug after winning a soccer game. Amy is confused and later asks her mother what “lesbian” means. The girl’s mother brings her to Grandma Bonnie who provides a detailed and celebratory description of what being a lesbian means to her.

The wordy book scattered with a few black-and-white drawings, introduces several aspects of lesbian culture: pride parades, rainbow flags, pink triangle pins, and commitment ceremonies/handfasting. It provides a positive and passionate description of lesbian love and community.

I am not sure who the intended audience is. The book is far too wordy for young children. The description of lesbian culture is so detailed that I can’t imagine anyone reading it wouldn’t have already answered the question – what’s a lesbian? – for their audience. Even within the text, Amy’s ignorance and need to ask about the meaning of “lesbian” is awkward. She knows her gay uncle died of AIDS-related complications, but doesn’t know what a lesbian is. I found that a bit farfetched.

I don’t recommend this book for the purpose of introducing children to sexual identities and cultures, but it is a fun addition to adult collections because of it’s celebration of lesbian love. For instance, when describing being lesbian to Amy, Grandma Bonnie says: “The benefit of being a lesbian is one of the best kept secrets ever. And it’s more than just making love, it’s being in love with, laughing and crying, sharing experiences together with each other and other women an children – and men we can trust.” Lines like this, references to the Michigan Womyn’s Festival, and paganism, make it worth the purchase if you can find it used!

#TBT – Jane Severance’s Lots of Mommies

Image result for lots of mommiesBefore Heather there was Emily, and instead of two mommies she had Lots of Mommies. Published by Lollipop Power, Inc. in 1983, Lots of Mommies is boldly written by Jane Severance, author of When Megan Went Away (1979). Severance’s work is a critical part of LGBTQ history that provides a look into lesbian family formations decades before Modern Family delivered sanitized images of same-sex parents to a mainstream audience. Continue reading