Real Sisters PretendNovember is National Adoption Month, so here are a dozen children’s books about adoptive families with queer parents!

Picture Books

  • My favorite of recent years is Megan Dowd Lambert’s Real Sisters Pretend, the story of two sisters whose imaginations soar as they play pretend—turning their living room in to a setting for becoming mountain climbing princesses. What they don’t have to pretend, however, the older Tayja tells Mia, is that they are sisters. It’s wonderful to see the love between the sibling as the focus here. So many books about children with same-sex parents focus on the relationship of a child to the parents—important, to be sure, but hardly the whole picture of what family can mean. The illustrations by Nicole Tadgell further convey the loving and fun relationship between the sisters.
  • The boy in Vera Williams’ Home at Last can’t fall asleep after being adopted by his two dads. They try many things to help him feel at home—until their dog, who crawls into bed to comfort and protect him, provides the solution. A wonderful book for adoptive families, animal lovers, and anyone who likes a comforting tale. Illustrations by two-time Caldecott Medalist Chris Raschka make this book extra special.
  • Lesléa Newman’s Felicia’s Favorite Story isn’t as well-known as her Heather Has Two Mommies, but is nevertheless a sweet story about a girl who loves to hear her moms tell her the story of adopting her from Guatemala.
  • In Adopting Ahava, by Jennifer Byrne, a boy who was adopted by two Jewish mamas is excited about adopting a puppy of his own.
  • In Our Mothers’ House, by Patricia Polacco, is a gentle tale about the treasures of everyday life and growing up, told through the eyes of an adopted Black girl with two White moms, Asian American brother, and White sister. The story includes one prejudiced neighbor who says to the mothers, “I don’t appreciate what you two are.” Meema explains, “She is full of fear…. She’s afraid of what she cannot understand. She doesn’t understand us.” That is well put, but may still leave children wondering what exactly is not understandable. Parents may want to have fuller explanations ready in case of questions. The story ends with the mothers growing old and being buried next to each other. It is a fitting closure, but parents should consider whether younger children will be frightened by the thought of parents dying.
  • A Tale of Two Mommies, by Vanita Oelschlager, does not state that the family is adoptive, but it’s clear the moms are White and their son is Black, which strongly implies it (although it’s possible they used a Black sperm donor). There’s no plot to speak of, but on each spread a child outside the family asks what life is like with two moms. 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.”
  • How My Family Came to Be: Daddy, Papa and Me, by Andrew Aldrich, is the loving and sometimes funny story of a Black boy’s adoption by two White dads, starting with their preparations for a social worker’s visit.
  • Todd Parr’s We Belong Together: A Book About Adoption and Families shows both same-sex and opposite-sex parents in its simple, colorful pictures of adoptive families. The text is a series of paired phrases like, “We belong together because . . . you needed a home, and I had one to share,” and “We belong together because . . . you needed someone to say ‘I love you,’ and we had love to give.” Response to the book among online reviewers was mixed. Many liked the focus on the parents’ and children’s feelings rather than the mechanics of adoption. Others felt the phrasing made it seem like the children were passive and “needy.” I think the end of the book makes it clear that adoptive parents and their children each have something to share with the other—but you should evaluate it for yourself.

Middle-Grade Books

  • Combine four adopted boys of assorted ages, two dads, a Maine coon cat, and a dog named Sir Puggleton into a home and stir well. Sprinkle on a doting aunt, a surly neighbor, and assorted classmates. Season with a collapsing backyard hockey rink, an untimely power outage, and a Thanksgiving culinary disaster. Dana Alison Levy’s superb middle-grade novel, The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher, combines all these ingredients and more to create a hysterically funny story that is simultaneously full of heart.
  • In the sequel, The Family Fletcher Takes Rock Island, the family is off on their yearly vacation, only to discover that the lighthouse they loved is being targeted for destruction by a real estate developer. They try to prevent this while also dealing with two new girls next door, teaching their cats to swim, an episode of racial profiling (thoughtfully handled), and a madcap Shakespeare production.
  • Levy’s third book, This Would Make a Good Story Someday follows the Johnston-Fischers, a two-mom family who are the Fletchers’ neighbors. After one of the moms, a blogger, wins a fellowship to take a family train trip across the country and write about it, they pack up their three daughters (biological and adopted; two White and one Asian) and eldest daughter’s boyfriend, and depart for their entertaining and surprisingly touching adventure.
  • In Emma Donoghue’s funny and clever middle-grade novel, The Lotterys Plus One, the parents are two couples who became best friends and decided to have a baby together—then won the lottery, bought a big house in Toronto, grew their family further through both childbearing and adoption, and took the mutual surname Lottery. The parents gave up their jobs so they could stay home and teach the children without sending them to school, bringing a hippie-ish and free-range sensibility to the process. The family’s life of controlled chaos is thrown off-kilter when one grandfather, whom the children have never met, is diagnosed with dementia and must come to live with them. “Grumps,” as the children call him, is curmudgeonly and conservative. Still, he’s family, and the arc of the story shows us what can happen when people of different mindsets ultimately learn to find common ground.

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