Hugs of Three: My Mommies and Me and Hugs of Three: My Daddies and Me, by Drs. Stacey Bromberg and Joe Taravella, are simple, rhyming books about family. Each is from the perspective of a child (of unspecified gender) with same-sex parents. “My family is so special/It’s me and my two Moms!” begins the mother version, before taking the reader on a journey through the child’s day with her/his family. The father version is nearly identical, with a little variety in some of the lines. One parent in each couple is White, and the other is Black; the child is White.
The authors of Hugs of Three are both licensed clinical psychologists with specializations in marital and family therapy. They wanted to reach “a broader spectrum of families to partner in facilitating overall well-being and growth” and decided to “develop a publishing company based on their work with individuals, children, and families, and influenced by their own families and parenting experiences.”
By themselves, the Hugs of Three titles are lovely books that help fill the gap in representation of same-sex-headed families for the board-book age group. My one qualm is that they are very similar to the other two books in the LGBT-inclusive board book category — Lesléa Newman’s Mommy, Mama, and Me and Daddy, Papa, and Me, which also show a child going through a day with his/her same-sex parents: at home, in the park, mealtimes, and bedtimes. (See my interview with Newman about them here.)
I wish Hugs of Three had centered around something a little different, like a trip to the zoo, a ride on a train, or a visit to the grandparents. (There’s one page that shows the family on the beach, but it’s hardly the focus of the story.) They’re not bad books, by any means — and I’d heartily recommend them to any new parents (including allies, who should have some books with LGBT parents on their shelves). It’s just that in the light of Newman’s board books, they don’t seem to give us much that is new.
There’s one big exception to that, however. Newman’s books show only White parents (or at least don’t clearly show parents of color; the dark-haired parent in each might be read as a light-skinned person of color) so they may work less well for some families than Hugs of Three, which shows biracial couples. (And yes, those are hardly the only combinations; we clearly need more books showing even more varieties of family, in many dimensions.)
I like the rhythm of Newman’s books a bit better, but that may be a personal preference. Hugs of Three is also a little more overt about its message of inclusion — “Families can be different/Yes, no two are alike” says one spread — but manages to stay just shy of preachiness. Newman’s books stay even more clearly away from anything even vaguely pedantic. Whether that’s good or bad depends on what you’re seeking.
Of course, there’s no reason not to get Newman’s book(s) and Bromberg/Taravella’s, no matter what your family structure and racial or ethnic identity. It’s always good for children to see reflections of their own families as well as others. And it’s always good for parental sanity to have a few different books to rotate into the mix. I just hope that the next board books showing same-sex parents move away from the “day-in-the-life” theme to show our children a greater scope of family experiences.
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