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The Family Book

By Todd ParrLittle, Brown; $15.95

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I hand Audra Watson the book as she herds my daughter, Natalie, out of her preschool classroom. “Oh! I love you!” Audra says. She’s used to my delivering unasked-for books from the public library where I work. But today I brought her a new book, a gift I purchased for her classroom. As she opens it and skims the bright, lively pages, her eyes widen. “Where did you find this?”

Todd Parr’s The Family Book will widen the eyes of teachers, day-care providers, and parents everywhere. In this just-right-for-preschoolers picture book, Parr emphasizes the silly (“Some families look alike / Some families look like their pets”) as much as the serious (“Some families have two moms or two dads / Some families have one parent instead of two”). All families are presented as equal, and difference is treated as no big deal. Diversity is, naturally, part of everyday life.

“Some families adopt children.” This is the line that sold the book to me. Our family looks as traditional as can be: two parents, married; one boy and one girl, who look a lot alike. Aaron, age 7, is our biological son. Natalie joined our family in February 2003, adopted at age 21/2 from an orphanage in Russia. Now, at age 31/2, she’s learning and growing at a phenomenal rate in Audra’s classroom, which includes kids with special needs as well as typical learners.

When Natalie came home from school with a note in her backpack announcing an upcoming unit on families, I clumsily approached Audra. “I’m sure you already…surely in this day and age...will you be sensitive to nontraditional families?” Audra reassured me that she would. But still I gave her The Family Book.

In short, simple phrases, The Family Book presents things families have in common as well as their differences. It boasts bold, friendly, goofy illustrations. It’s approachable, not preachy. It’s celebratory, yet serious. It works because it’s about my family. It’s about Natalie’s family. It’s about Audra’s family. And I’ll bet it’s about yours.

Reviewed by Kay Marner, a mother of two who works for the library in Ames, Iowa.

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