Thursday, August 5, 2010

Review: Rules by Cynthia Lord

Author: Cynthia Lord
Title: Rules
Illustrator: None noted
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Publication Date: 2006
ISBN: 0-439-44382-2

Catherine is a twelve-year old girl who longs for a normal life, to have friends come over and to do things as a family without the potential embarrassment that comes with having an autistic younger brother. She even keeps a rule book to help her brother David learn how to behave, but he is constantly forgetting the rules. This summer, Catherine has a chance with a new friend as a girl her age is moving in next door. Catherine also makes a new friend named Jason who is confined to a wheel chair and talks with a communication board. Her love of drawing assists her as she adds new, more expressive vocabulary cards to his book, such as ‘whatever’. Catherine’s embarrassment over both her brother’s disability and Jason’s shocks her into questioning her own definition of normal.

Rules by Cynthia Lord is a study in character development as 12-year-old Catherine learns that being different is okay. Catherine longs for a normal life. Her brother, David, has autism. Having a brother like David definitely affects Catherine’s life in more ways than just competing for her parent’s attention. David makes it difficult to have friends. He can be ‘embarrassing.” Catherine’s best friend is in California with her father for the summer, so when a new girl moves in across the street, Catherine is excited yet nervous, too. What if David does something to embarrass her?

Catherine keeps a rule book for David to teach him the simple ‘rules’ of life such as, “A boy can take off his shirt to swim but not his shorts,” or “Flush!” Each chapter is centered on one of her rules, and others are interspersed within the chapter itself. David often forgets the rules such as “Late doesn’t mean not coming.” As David and Catherine are waiting outside for their father to get home by 5:00, they are counting cars to pass the time. None of the cars belong to his father. In his anxiety, David flaps his hands and screams a quote from Frog and Toad Together by Lobel, “The whole world is covered with buttons and not one of them is mine!” “I jump up to stop his hands, flapping now like two fierce and angry birds.” This is bad timing. From her porch, the new neighbor girl asks, “Is he okay?” and offers to help look for his button. How do you explain the rule, “If you need to borrow words, Arnold Lobel wrote some good ones.”? The girl goes back in without a ‘Hi’ or an exchange of names.

One afternoon as Catherine was fishing a Barbie doll out of the fish tank (“No toys in the fish tank!”), the new girl waves at her through the window. David does not like to get wet. When Catherine looks back at David, his pants are down around his feet. She quickly closes the curtains. “Pantless brothers are not my problem.” Sometimes Catherine has her own rules.

When her mother wants to invite the new neighbors over for a barbecue, Catherine doesn’t want David to be there. “...It’s hard enough to make new friends without worrying he’ll do something embarrassing.” Later, Catherine lies to her mom saying the neighbors were busy and couldn’t come. “How can his outside look so normal and his inside be so broken? Like an apple, red perfect on the outside, but mushy brown at the first bite.”

Even with all the embarrassment that David brings into her life, Catherine still defends him against people who tease him and helps him cope by teaching him life rules. “I feel like I’m ripping in half. One half wanting to run away and be a regular person with my friends, but my other half is scared to leave David because he can’t make it on his own.”

Not only is Catherine learning to deal with her conflicting emotions about her brother, she also has to learn to accept the differences her new friend Jason brings with him. One of the children in the therapy clinic is a 14 or 15 year old boy named Jason. He is wheelchair bound and can only ‘talk’ using a communication board, a book with picture/word vocabulary cards. Catherine never knows where to look at him. “Maybe by drawing Jason, I could look at him easier,” but Jason doesn’t want to be drawn. “Girl don’t,” he points at his board.

When the therapist very loudly asks and signs how he is doing, his mother tells her he is upset because he couldn’t get a guitar he wants. The therapist points at his board and says, “Sad.” Catherine thinks he needs better cards like “Get out of my face!” and “Go away!” and “This stinks a big one!” She tells Jason she is sorry about the guitar and gives him a picture she drew. Over the summer Catherine’s friendship with Jason grows as she makes more expressive vocabulary cards for him to use.

Despite their friendship, Catherine is still embarrassed about Jason’s disability. One time at the therapist’s office, Jason tells her about wanting to know what it feels like to run. Catherine jokingly offers to push him around the parking lot really fast. Jason accepts. “My smile freezes.” She tries to come up with excuses, but takes him outside anyway. “People are looking, but I try not to see them as real, just statues to run past.” When she stops, she notices a number of people watching with their mouths open. Some of them cheer. “One more time?” she asks Jason.

After Jason gets a motorized wheelchair, they walk to the beach. “...My ears are full of the sound of Jason’s wheelchair and the silence of people who suddenly stop talking as we pass.” When Catherine hears the new girl Kristi’s voice up ahead, she ducks down pretending to tie her shoe until Kristi is gone. She hasn’t told Kristi about Jason’s disability.

At Jason’s birthday party, Jason asks her to go with him to the dance. She says she can’t. Jason asks her if she is embarrassed about him. “I’m just a horrible dancer. Terrible. In fact, I’m so bad I even have a rule against it. No dancing unless I’m alone in my room or it’s pitch-black dark.” “RULE. Stupid. Excuse,” Jason points. Catherine tells her mother later, “...people stare. Or they hurry away, and I know what they’re thinking.... I get so sick of it.” “Just because other people think something, that doesn’t make it true,” her mother answers.

The turning point is on the night of the dance. Catherine decides to go, just in case Jason goes, too. She even treats her brother to some grape soda rather than pushing him out the door with her father. When Jason arrives, she asks to talk to him in private. Catherine gives Jason a card, “COMPLICATED.” The way people look around David, like he’s invisible, “makes me mad, because it’s mean and it makes me invisible, too.” Another card says, “Hidden,” and Catherine confesses about not telling Kristi about Jason because, “I was scared what she might think of me, not you. You’re a good friend, and I’ve been—.” Card number three says, “Weak.”

When Kristi and her friend Ryan appear, Catherine introduces them and apologizes to Kristi for not telling her more about Jason. After Kristi leaves, not looking at Catherine on the way out, Catherine offers one more card to Jason, “Guilty.” He doesn’t want it. Instead, he asks her to dance. She accepts his offer, just as she accepts his differences.

That night, Catherine has to rescue another toy from the fish tank. “...Other things matter, too. Like sharing something small and special, just my brother and me. Kneeling beside David, our arms touching, our faces reflect side by side, in the glass. I let that be enough.” Catherine is learning that being different is not something to be embarrassed about. Different is just ... different.

Review excerpts:
Booklist (February 15, 2006) “The details of autistic behavior are handled well, as are depictions of relationships.... A heartwarming first novel.” (Gr. 4-7)

Kirkus Review (March 1, 2006) “Catherine is an appealing and believable character, acutely self-conscious and torn between her love for her brother and her resentment of his special needs. Middle-grade readers will recognize her longing for acceptance and be intrigued by this exploration of dealing with differences.” (9-12)

Library Media Connection (October 2006) “This is a great book to help students gain some understanding about autism, while also providing a good read.”

Publishers Weekly (April 17, 2006) “The appealing, credible narrator at the heart of Lord’s debut novel will draw in readers, as she struggles to find order and balance in her life.... A rewarding story that may well inspire readers to think about others’ points of view.” (Ages 9-12)

School Library Journal (April 1, 2006) “Lord has candidly captured the delicate dynamics in a family that revolves around a child’s disability. Set in coastal Maine, this sensitive story is about being different, feeling different, and finding acceptance.” (Gr. 4-7)

KidPost Book of the Week, Washington Post (4/16/06)
Read On Wisconsin, Middle-School Pick 2006
Newbery Honor Medal 2007
Schneider Family Book Award 2007
ALA Notable Children’s Book 2007
Maine Student Book Award 2007-2008
Great Stone Face Award (NH) 2007-2008
Mitten Award (Michigan Library Association) 2008
Kentucky Bluegrass Award 2008
Buckeye Children’s Book Award (OH) 2008
Children’s Book Award (RI) 2008
Young Hoosier Book Award Nominee 2008-2009
Great Lakes Great Books Award (Michigan) 2008-2009
Rebecca Caudill Young Reader’s Book Award 2009
New York Public Library’s 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing (Spring 2009)
Nutmeg Children’s Book Award 2010
Notable Children’s Book in the Language Arts (NCTE)
Book of the Week, CCBC
Editors’ Pick, HW Wilson Standard Catalog

This is a great opportunity to learn more about autism and other disabilities. A is for Autism, F is for Friend: a Kid’s Book on Making Friends with a Child Who has Autism by Joanna L. Keating-Velasco (2007) is for students in grades 3-8 and is published by Autism Asperger Publications. All About My Brother: an Eight-Year-Old Sister’s Introduction of her Brother Who has Autism by Sarah Peralta (2002) is for kindergarten through 3rd graders and shows a loving relationship between a sister and her non-verbal, autistic younger brother. Other nonfiction books and series for students from grades 3-8 that deal with autism and other disabilities include: Autism by Toney Allman (2010) from the Diseases and Disorders series by Lucent Books, Autism by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen (2005), Autism by Marlene Targ Brill (2008) from the Health Alert series by Marshall Cavendish Benchmark, The Autism Acceptance Book: Being a Friend to Someone with Autism by Ellen Sabin (2006), Autism and Me: Sibling Stories by Ouisie Shapiro (2009), and How to Deal with Autism by Lynette Robbins (2010) from the Kids’ Health series by PowerKids Press.

Two picture books you may want to read are Ian’s Walk: a Story about Autism by Laurie Lears (1998) and Nathan’s Wish: a Story about Cerebral Palsy by Laurie Lears (2005). Both are from the point of view of the disabled child and are part of the Concept Books published by Whitman.

Some helpful websites are: Autism Society of America with its article on sibling issues (, Autism Resources ( which also has a list of children’s autism books (, and KidsHealth Organization has information on autism ( and other disabilities (use the search feature). A Google videos search for “autism” and for “autism siblings” provides many opportunities to view information on autism in a video format from people who deal with the disability on a daily basis and from medical professional for more in-depth explanations.


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Review: Habibi by Naomi Shihab Nye

Author: Naomi Shihab Nye
Title: Habibi
Illustrator: none noted
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: 1997
ISBN: 0-689-80149-1

Liyana Abboud is a fourteen-year-old Arab American girl. She is looking forward to high school, dating, and more kissing, having just received her first kiss. But her world is being turned upside down. Her father has decided that now would be a good time to move...back to his homeland of Jerusalem, a place where Liyana cannot wear shorts, kiss in public, or even speak the language. There she meets more family than she can count, including a grandmother she calls Sitti, stone streets, history, anger and prejudice, and Omer, a Jewish boy whose kisses come to mean more to her than her first kiss back home. Liyana and her family discover that you can have more than one home in your heart.

Through imagery, poetry, character development, and a strong story line contrasting conflict and peace, anger and friendship, Naomi Shihab Nye’s character Liyana Abboud welcomes you into her life and her Arab American family in Habibi. Each chapter starts with a line written by Liyana, setting up the theme of the chapter.

The secret kiss grew larger and larger.” In the first chapter, Liyana has just had her first kiss, one she keeps secret from her family, but that night, she is told that the family is moving from her home in St. Louis to Jerusalem, her father’s homeland. Her father, Poppy, believes that things have settled down there. How can she leave when she is just beginning to explore a friendship transforming into something new? “Who would they be if they had to start all over again? ...Now she would be the immigrant” just as her Poppy had been when he came to the United States. Liyana reacts in anger at the changes that are expected of her. When Poppy tells her that she cannot wear her shorts in Jerusalem because it wouldn’t be appropriate, after all “Arab women don’t wear shorts,” Liyana yells, “I’m not a woman or a full Arab, either one!” She thinks of herself as a “half-half...a mixed breed.... The half-breeds are always villains or rescuers, never anybody normal in between.”

Through her move to Jerusalem, Liyana finds herself, her place in the world. First, Liyana meets her extended family. “She opened her mouth and a siren came out.” Poppy warns them that his mother, Sitti, “comes from a different world.” She is old-fashioned in dress and in her mannerisms, a traditional Palestinian, who does not understand English. A huge crowd of relatives pour into the hotel room, “hugging, pinching cheeks, and jabbering loudly.” They are very different from the relatives in the states who rarely hug each other. Liyana stands close to Poppy, for protection and for translation, especially when Sitti “threw her head back, rolled her tongue high up in her mouth, and began trilling wildly.” Poppy explains that the cry is used as an announcement at weddings and – funerals.” There are so many kisses on the cheek and introductions, Liyana can’t keep track of who is who.

“How long does a friend take?” Liyana wonders, yet friendships are made in unlikely places. While chasing a hen, Liyana and Rafik meet Khaled and his sister Nadine who live in the refugee camp. Even with the little Arabic that Liyana and Rafik have and the little English Khaled and Nadine speak, they are able to develop a close friendship very quickly. “Khaled and Nadine. They’re nice. Now you tell me. Are they acquaintances or friends?” she asks Rafik.

“She turned a corner and everything changed.” Liyana meets a boy who smells like cinnamon in the Sandrouni family’s ceramics shop. Every other day, she visits the shop, hoping to see him again. When they finally meet again, she thinks he says his name is Omar. They make plans to meet the next day, but she does not tell Poppy about him right away. “Sometimes to hold a good secret inside you made the rest of a day feel glittery.” When she finds out his name is Omer, not Omar, and that he is Jewish, she is confused as to why he is with her, an Arab. She begins to talk a mile a minute, ending with “don’t you think it should have made them (the Jewish people) more sensitive to the sufferings of others, too?” “I do,” Omer replies. “It’s a bad history without a doubt. Nothing to be proud of. So what are we going to do about it?” Their friendship is sealed.

Liyana enjoys exploring Jerusalem. “The city was a cake made of layers of time.” Yet Liyana notices that anger pours from the cracks between the stones. “With so much holiness bumping up against other holiness, doesn’t it seem strange Jerusalem would have had so much fighting?” In a spice store, Liyana is told by a Jewish man not to talk to “this animal,” referring to the store owner. She is so angry, she can’t say a word. “What good is a mouth if it won’t open when you need it to?”

The Abboud family hears more and more stories of aggression, one side against another until it touches them. The Israeli police, searching for a relative of theirs, destroy Sitti’s bathroom. After a bombing by Palestinians, the Israeli police believe that their friend Khaled has something to do with it. Khaled detests violence. Knowing this, Poppy tries to intervene and gets arrested, and Khaled is shot in the leg. Liyana tells the police at the jail, “You do not have to be so mean! You could be nicer! YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE THIS WAY!” Liyana begins to wonder, “Maybe peace was the size of a teacup.”

Yet there is hope for peace through individuals. Liyana asks her father if Omer, her Jewish friend, could go to her grandmother’s village with the family. Poppy grows angry at the mother’s suggestion that Liyana has a Jewish boyfriend even though Mrs. Abboud reminds him of her parents’ reaction to their relationship. Liyana tells him, “We want to write a new story.” “What good is a belief in peace if it doesn’t change the ways we live?” her mother asks him. Liyana finally has to quote Poppy’s own words, “Didn’t you say before you went in jail that it would be great if people never described each other as ‘the Jew’ or ‘the Arab’ or ‘the black guy’ or ‘the white guy’ – didn’t you just SAY?”

Poppy’s fears about his mother’s acceptance of Omer go unanswered. Sitti accepts him with all of her heart. Omer reminds her of someone she liked a lot, a long time ago, who was killed by a bomb. She thinks Omer carries her friend’s spirit within him. Omer seals the bond of their friendship when he tells her, “I’m happy to carry him.” Even with all the deaths and violence Sitti has seen, when Liyana asks Sitti about the recent peace talks, Sitti answers, “I never lost my peace inside.” Sitti tells Omer, “There are hard words waiting in people’s mouths to be spoken. There are walls. You can’t break them. Just find doors in them. See? You already have. Here we are together.” Habibi by Naomi Shihab Nye leaves the reader with hope for peace in Jerusalem through the actions of individuals and families reaching out their hands in friendship and acceptance.

Liyana finds peace within herself. In the end, Liyana realizes she has everything she needs. “She didn’t need everyone to know her—just a few people. That was enough. She needed her family, two countries, her senses, her notebooks and pencils, and her new devotion to – trade. When you liked somebody, you wanted to trade the best things you knew about. You liked them not only for themselves, but for the parts of you that they brought out.”

Review excerpts:
Book Links
(January 2006) “In this heartwarming novel Nye paints an uplifting and optimistic portrait of friendship between Palestinians and Jews, and readers will relate to Liyana’s efforts to make new friends and adapt to her new environment.” (Gr. 6-up)

School Library Journal (1997) “Though the story begins at a leisurely pace, readers will be engaged by the characters, the romance, and the foreshadowed danger. Poetically imaged and leavened with humor, the story renders layered and complex history understandable through character and incident. Habibi succeeds in making the hope for peace compellingly personal and long as individual citizens like Liyana’s grandmother Sitti can say, “I never lost my peace inside.”” (Gr. 5-9)

Book Report (1998) “This book is an outstanding look at what it is like to be a young person in Palestine today. It is rich in detail, personalizes the complex tensions of the Middle East, and leaves the reader with a sense of hope for peaceful resolutions.” (Grades 6-12)

Horn Book Magazine (1997) “The leisurely progression of the narrative matches the slow and stately pace of daily life in this ancient land, and the text’s poetic turns of phrase accurately reflect Liyana’s passion for words and language.”

Publishers Weekly (September 8, 1997) “This soul-stirring novel about the Abbouds, an Arab American family, puts faces and names to the victims of violence and persecution in Jerusalem today.... Nye’s climactic ending will leave readers pondering, long after the last page is turned, why Arabs, Jews, Greeks and Armenians can no longer live in harmony the way they once did.” (Ages 10-up)

Texas Institute of Letters Best Book for Young Readers 1997
American Library Association Notable Books for Children 1998
Jane Addams Children’s Book Award 1998
Judy Lopez Memorial Award 1998
ALA Best Book for Young Adults 1998
Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Award 1998-1999
MEOC’s Middle East Book Award 2000
Georgia Children’s Book Award 2000
New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age
American Bookseller “Pick of the Lists”

Further your students’ knowledge of Arab Americans, Israel, Palestine, and Jerusalem through books, video recordings, and websites. Arab American Biography by Loretta Hall is a multi-volume set published in 1999 by UXL. It contains 75 profiles on noteworthy Arab Americans in over twenty fields. Grandma Hekmatt Remembers: an Arab-American Family Story by Ann Morris (2003) is the story of a grandmother’s life and journey from Egypt to New Jersey as it is told to her three granddaughters. The Arab American Institute provides current information of importance to Arab Americans, support programs and services, and special events (

The book Israel and Palestine by Paul Mason (2009) and Israel and Palestine: a Divided Land published by Knowledge Unlimited (2004), a video recording (VHS) designed for grades 5 and up, both provide an overview of the history of Israel and Palestine and discuss the origins of the current conflict and its impact on the people of this region. Explore Israel, Palestine, and the city of Jerusalem online at and

Jerusalem Sky: Stars, Crosses, and Crescents by Mark H. Podwal (2005) is a book of religious poetry centered around Jerusalem including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam stories. Tali’s Jerusalem Scrapbook by Sylvia A. Rouss (2003) is a story of a Jewish child remembering when she lived in peace with her Arab neighbors. Jerusalem: between Heaven and Earth published by Kultur (2008) is a DVD for audiences Grades 5 and up. Jewish, Christian, and Muslim families share their perspectives on the city of Jerusalem.

Using the knowledge gained through the studies, discuss the connections each side has to the city of Jerusalem and the country of Israel. Why are there conflicts? Why are they having problems living side by side peacefully? How do you think the problems can be resolved?


Monday, August 2, 2010

Review: In Our Mothers' House by Patricia Polacco

Author: Patricia Polacco
Title: In Our Mother’s House
Illustrator: Patricia Polacco
Publisher: Philomel Books
Publication Date: 2009
ISBN: 978-0-399-25076-7

Our Mothers’ house is just like any other household you may see. We laugh, work, play, and grow together. But one of the neighborhood families doesn’t accept us. You see, we have two mothers instead of a mom and a dad. This doesn’t matter to us. We are loved just the same.

In Our Mother's House by Patricia Polacco is told from the point of view of Meema’s and Marmee’s oldest child, an African-American girl. The reader sees bits and pieces of their lives as the narrator, Will (an Asian-American boy), and Millie (a red-headed Caucasian girl) grow up feeling happy and loved. A confrontation with the prejudice neighbor leads to a joining of forces by all of their other neighbors, showing their acceptance of this unusual family. The three children grow up, get married to heterosexual spouses, and have children of their own as their mothers grow older together. After their death, Will and his family live in the same house where “The walls still whisper our mothers’ name.” It is a place of love.

In Our Mothers’ House by Patricia Polacco opens by introducing each character, when each child joins the family and the jobs, hobbies, and personalities of the two mothers. From that point on, the book is a walk down memory lane, using small events from the children’s lives as they grow up to demonstrate the love that their mothers give to them. They dance, paint on the walls, slide down the banisters, go trick or treating in homemade costumes, get sick together, and more. The extended family is just as close and visits often. “What I loved the most about our family was that we could all speak our hearts. We never measured words.” The closeness of the neighbors to this family is demonstrated when a tree house is built and when a block party is held; they all pitch in to make each endeavor a success.

As each event changed with a turn of the page, I wondered if there was going to be a plot. The book seemed to be like a photo album, a collection of memories. I could see hints of a confrontation to come as the children meet with the rudeness displayed by Mrs. Lockner. She slams the door on them at Halloween, and her children don’t come to the tree house sleepover, even though they had been invited. “They just plain didn’t like us, I guessed. I couldn’t quite understand why.” Mrs. Lockner’s children are excited about the invitation to the block party, but Mrs. Lockner “glared at us, the way she always did.”

Finally, the expected confrontation takes place at the block party. ““I don’t appreciate what you two are!” she snarled at Meema and Marmee...and stalked off. “What’s the matter with her, Momma, what’s the matter with her?” Millie kept saying.... “She is full of fear, sweetie. She’s afraid of what she cannot understand: she doesn’t understand us,” Meema quietly said.”” The neighbors all hug the mothers and stay to talk until late that night. Although not openly calling the mothers lesbians, the implication is there. Will younger children understand the message of the story? Probably only those who come from families with same-sex parents will understand.

Just as I thought we were finished, one more random memory had to be included to demonstrate the love the mothers felt toward their children. They were to host the mother-daughter tea and had to wear dresses. Although the mothers never wear dresses, they do for this one occasion to support their children. This memory interrupts the closing. It is interesting, but not necessary. We already know by then how much the mothers love their children.

Finally, the story wraps up by showing each child’s wedding picture (heterosexual marriages) and what each child becomes when they grow up. The purpose of this appears to be to relay the message that being raised by same-sex parents did not affect the children’s’ future in a ‘negative’ manner. I wonder why Polacco did not have one of the children grow up to be gay. Her message was suppose to be that this type of family is normal, too, but none of the children grow up to display this definition of normality. The reader then sees the mothers growing older and playing with their grandchildren before they pass away. The house stays in the family as Will raises his family there, too.

Yes, the message is clear. Same-sex families who show love toward their children are just like all others. Multi-racial, adopted children, too, are just like all others. It doesn’t matter who is in the family so much as how you are raised. Yet the photo album method of portraying that message drags on and on, leaving me to wonder if it could hold the attention of the children it is written for. The bright colors and expressive faces and bodies of the characters throughout the story are what keeps the reader’s attention. Each character’s personality comes through, not through the words so much as through the illustrations.

One other thing concerns me. This book is an attempt to stop some of the fears and concerns regarding the effects on children who are being raised by same sex parents; however, there is still some stereotyping involved in Polacco’s rendering of the mothers. They are drawn with very short hair similar to a man’s hairstyle, and they always wear pants. The only time they don’t wear pants is for their daughters’ tea party because they are asked to wear dresses. “We had never seen either of them in a dress...ever!” This image is that of the stereotypical lesbian. Doesn’t this image need to be challenged, too?

Although there are shortcomings to In Our Mothers’ House by Patricia Polacco, there are so few books available to meet the needs of children being raised by same-sex parents that this book should be included in a library collection.

Review excerpts:
(May 1, 2009) “The energetic illustrations in pencil and marker, though perhaps not as well rendered as in some previous works, teem with family activities and neighborhood festivity.... This portrait of a loving family celebrates differences....” (Grades 1-4)

Horn Book (Fall 2009) “The nostalgic adult tone and dearth of actual plot severely limit the child appeal of this well-intentioned story played out in Polacco’s recognizable illustrations.”

Kirkus Review (March 15, 2009) “Unfortunately, while this ambitious picture book seeks to offer an inclusive vision of family, it ultimately comes up short.” (6-8)

Library Media Connection (October 2009) “The writing style is truly Polacco and the colorful illustrations are warm and loving. This is a strong and memorable story of a peaceful, devoted family unit.”

School Library Journal (May 1, 2009) “Is this an idealized vision of how a gay couple can be accepted by their family and community? Absolutely. But the story serves as a model of inclusiveness for children who have same-sex parents, as well as for children who may have questions about a “different” family in their neighborhood. A lovely book that can help youngsters better understand their world.” (Gr. 1-4)

ALA Rainbow Book List 2010
What’s New in Children’s Literature 2010 (Dr. Peggy Sharp)

Include In Our Mothers’ House by Patricia Polacco in your collection as an example of the diversity of families. The addition of several other books can support the message the story conveys. For middle school on up, Gay and Lesbian Parents by Julianna Fields (2010) is a nonjudgmental presentation of homosexuality and parenting, including a discussion on controversies, laws, when a parent comes out, and various religious and social issues that these families encounter. This book is a part of the series Changing Face of Modern Families published by Mason Crest Publishers (2010). Other books in this series are: Adoptive Parents, Blended Families, Celebrity Families, Families Living with Mental and Physical Challenges, First-generation Immigrant Families, Foster Families, Grandparents Raising Kids, Growing up in Religious Communities, Kids Growing Up without a House, Multiracial Families, Single Parent Families, Teen Parents, and What is a Family?. A website publication written by highschoolers is “The Viking Views.” In their May 28, 2008 edition they explore different families (

For the elementary level, include books on other family units that are different. Single-Parent Families by Sarah L. Schuette (2010) is a part of the My Family series published by Capstone. This series is written for K-3 students and also includes Adoptive Families, Blended Families, and Foster Families. Picture book stories on different families for younger students should be included in your collection. Murphy’s Three Homes: a Story for Children in Foster Care by Jan Levinson Gilman (2009) is written from a dog’s point of view as he is moved around to various foster homes. Some stories about adoptions from China include Star of the Week: a Story of Love, Adoption, and Brownies with Sprinkles by Darlene Friedman (2009), Made in China: a Story of Adoption by Vanita Oelschlager (2008), A China Adoption Story: Mommy, Why do We Look Different? by Frances M. Koh (2000), and Mommy Far, Mommy Near: an Adoption Story by Carol Antoinette Peacock (2000). Megan’s Birthday Tree: a Story About Open Adoption by Laurie Lears explores the wider family that open adoption creates. For teachers or homeschoolers, Teacherlink includes a unit “What Are Different Kinds of Families” at