Two relatively new picture books—one about families with two moms and one about those with two dads—are delightful additions to the growing number of LGBT-inclusive children’s books. They are particularly notable because they speak not only to children with same-sex parents, but also to children whose friends have same-sex parents.
Vanita Oelschlager’s A Tale of Two Mommies and A Tale of Two Daddies follow the similar pattern of a child asking another what life is like with two moms (or two dads). “If you have a momma and a mommy, who fixes things when they break?” asks one. “Oh, Mommy has all the tools. There’s nothing she can’t fix or make,” replies the other. Later, one asks, “Who’s your mom for climbing a tree? Who’s your mom when you scrape your knee?” to which the reply is, “Momma helps me climb a tree. Both moms help when I skin my knee.”
There’s no plot to speak of, but the rhymes keep the stories bouncing along (even if a few seem forced). The illustrations by Mike Blanc (along with Kristin Blackwood for Daddies) are bright, bold, and full of action, with a children’s-eye view that only lets in the occasional adult leg or arm. The illustrations, too, give the books much of their humor, for example, by showing the eclectic collection of things that end up in a boy’s pockets at the end of the day, or a girl hiding under her blankets to read at night. My nine-year-old son, who is generally beyond picture books, laughed at many points, and gave them rather high praise: “That’s very nice“—with an inflection indicating “nice” was meant in its most positive sense (not in the offhand way “That’s nice” is sometimes said).
The Mommies and Daddies versions don’t just swap the parents’ names; they each have differing text and illustrations. Daddies, which was written first, shows a White girl and friend, along with two White fathers. Mommies shows a Black boy with a White and an Asian friend, and two White moms.
The books are somewhat similar to Lesléa Newman’s Mommy, Mama, and Me and Daddy, Papa, and Me—also wonderful simple stories for young children, explaining what each parent does. Newman’s works are board books, however, which recommends them to the very youngest. They are also told from the point of view of the child with two moms (or dads), which makes them most meaningful, I believe, to children in those families. (“Mommy picks me up, up, up. Mama pours juice in my cup.”) Oelschlager’s works, being dialogues between children from different family types, may lack that personal angle for children of same-sex parents, but also appeal to a wider audience. (But really, they’re all good, and there’s no reason any parent shouldn’t get any of them for young kids.)
Young children with same-sex parents will enjoy the matter-of-fact replies by Oelschlager’s protagonists, which could give them confidence in speaking about their own families. Children with other family types may learn that having two moms or two dads isn’t so different. And straight parents who are seeking ways to speak about same-sex parents with their young children may find these books—which avoid both “problems” and pedantry—a good place to start.
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