NITTY GRITTY DETAILS
- Title: The Family Book
- Author: Todd Parr
- Illustrator: Todd Parr
- Award: Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Award
Todd Parr is the kind of author every teacher wishes could visit their classroom (every day, preferably!). His heart is focused on helping every child feel cherished for who they are. An accomplished author and illustrator of over 40 books, his stories range from family topics (The Daddy Book, The Mommy Book, The Grandma Book), identity (It’s Okay to be Different, The Feel Good Book), and a variety of other foci. Each topic is approached with love and understanding, a true gift for its reader!
Here’s a video of Todd reading one of his books, Be Who You Are:
The Family Book is a charming picture book that uses bright colors, animals, and people to describe the variety of ways a family can be a family.
While talking about the many ways families can be different (“Some families look alike, Some families look like their pets”), there are unifying pages that highlight commonalities.
What is particularly noteworthy is the fact that the author didn’t shy away from topics that some feel aren’t appropriate for children: adoption, having one parent, having gay parents, losing a parent. By including these pictures in the book, Todd is reminding the reader that these aren’t merely topics but they are people and families.
A tradition with his novels, Todd ends the book with a supportive note written from him to the reader:
There are lots of different ways to be a family. Your family is special no matter what kind it is. Love, Todd
- Picture book with words
Todd using very precise language so as to ensure there isn’t confusion about what he is saying: all families are wonderful.
TEACHING & LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES
As much as I love this book, I wouldn’t use it in my classroom because it’s simply too young. Although The Family Book certainly addresses important topics, the writing level would be better suited to an elementary classroom than a middle school one.
If I were doing a picture book genre study, this could be an interesting one to put in due to the fact that it does feature families that aren’t often celebrated in children’s literature. Having outliers is an important part of genre studies, and this book would be a powerful addition for that purpose. Questions a teacher could ask:
- What topics do you see in this book that you didn’t see in others?
- Why do you think many authors choose not to include those topics?
- Why do you think this author chose to include them?
- Who gets to decide what is appropriate to include in books? (This could also pair nicely with a Banned Book unit.)
This book supports kids in families that are often not discussed while helping kids who are not in those families learn about them. Supporting kids on one hand while broadening the perspectives of others – that’s powerful!
WORDS OF CAUTION
You need to know your students before reading this book as a class or offering it to a child, particularly because it discusses adoption and lightly touches upon the death of a loved one – potentially vulnerable topics for young readers.
DEPICTION OF FAMILIES
All families are welcome and celebrated in The Family Book! A powerful book that helps children (and parents) feel connected to not only their family, as silly and crazy as they may be, but to other families as well. This book is a great conversation starter for young readers to discover the diversity that exists in the world and our own communities as well.
I genuinely didn’t observe any stereotypes in this book. The use of animals as characters and random colors (people with purple skin and green hair, for example) removed gender roles and racial stereotypes. Women wore dresses and pants although men only wear pants. Overall, this book focuses on being inclusive and honoring the differences between families and commonalities we share.
DOES THIS BOOK BELONG IN SCHOOL?
Some community members may feel that the page celebrating families with two moms or two dads is not appropriate for school. As a diehard supporter of non-censorship, I don’t advise that anyone let that hold them back from including this wonderful book in their curriculum. Instead, I recommend that educators use The Family Book as an opportunity to include your community in the efforts to build a bully-free school that is accepting of all people, no matter their race, religion, orientation, or other identifiers.