Stack Overflow: All in the Family

Ah, family: it can be the source of such great joy and yet also completely maddening at times. As you may expect, there are lots of kids’ books about family, some just to entertain, some meant to teach important life lessons. Here’s a collection of books about siblings, parents, and other family.

One Family

One Family by George Shannon, pictures by Blanca Gomez

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This book reminds me a little of They Might Be Giants’ song “There’s Only One Everything,” as it plays with the idea of what “one” can be. “One is two. One pair of shoes.” Or “One is five. One bunch of bananas.” Each two-page spread offers a couple examples of “one” as a bigger number, and ends with “One family.” Each page shows a group of people–adults and kids–that make up a family, and I was delighted with the range of ages and skin colors represented in Gomez’s colorful illustrations. There are siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and extended family, driving home the message that we’re all one family, in this thing together.

My Wild Family

My Wild Family by Laurent Moreau

This picture book is extra large to contain the zoo-sized family within. With sparse text and lovely illustrations, a little girl describes her family as various animals: her younger brother is flighty and an excellent singer–you see a bird perched on a desk in the classroom. Her hungry uncle is a bear seated at the dinner table. I have to admit I’m not terribly fond of the text (maybe something was lost in translation?), but the illustrations are wonderful to look at.

Your Baby's First Word Will Be Dada

Your Baby’s First Word Will Be Dada by Jimmy Fallon, pictures by Miguel Ordóñez

Yep, that Jimmy Fallon. He wanted to be sure his daughter’s first word would be “Dada,” and this book could be part of the effort, or maybe documenting what it’s like. It’s just a series of pictures of a dad animal with a baby animal. The dad is saying “DADA!” and the baby makes its animal sound. Until the end, when all the dads and babies are together in a group, and it finally works… sort of. That image is great, though: the dads are angry, resigned, worried, shell-shocked. The book is sort of a one-trick pony, but babies get a lot of mileage out of one trick.

Ask Me

Ask Me by Bernard Waber, illustrated by Suzy Lee

This is a lovely conversation between a dad and daughter as they walk around outside and then head home and get ready for bed. The daughter is busy, guiding the conversation and bouncing from topic to topic, telling her dad to “ask me what I like.” The illustrations are wonderful–sketchy and expressive–and although there’s not really a storyline to speak of, the conversation bubbles over as they make their way through a fall-colored forest, buy ice cream, and brush teeth before bed.

Dad's First Day

Dad’s First Day by Mike Wohnoutka

You know how sometimes when you want a kid to feel less nervous about something, you pretend to be nervous so they can comfort you? That’s what this book is for. It’s Oliver’s first day of school, but Dad just keeps stalling, and hiding, and Oliver has to drag him to the car. He finally realizes that he’s just not ready for school. None of my kids are quite the right age for this now (I’ve got two that are well past the first day jitters and one that has a few years to go) so it didn’t resonate with me quite as much, but it’s cute.

Dilly Dally Daisy

Dilly Dally Daisy by Mark Fearing

Daisy is usually late, because she dawdles. She goes up the stairs like a cat, dresses up her little brother when she should be getting ready for school, and on and on. When her mom says she has to be on time to her swimming lesson today or no more lessons, what’s Daisy to do? Will she make it? This one struck a chord with me because we have a daughter who dilly dallies, and it’s a constant struggle–at least with Daisy I can chuckle. The poor brother–although he’s in many of the illustrations, he’s never once mentioned in the text.

Stella Brings the Family

Stella Brings the Family by Miriam B. Schiffer, pictures by Holly Clifton-Brown

This book is particularly worth mentioning in light of the recent SCOTUS decision on marriage equality, because it features a gay couple. Stella has a dilemma–her class is going to have a special celebration for Mother’s Day, but she doesn’t have a mom. She has two dads. Unfortunately, while the book does delve into Stella’s non-traditional family dynamics, the story’s solution is less than ideal. She brings her entire family: both dads, aunt & uncle, grandma, cousin. And she’s still planning to bring both dads for Father’s Day. So although it’s a cute book that expresses diversity, I kind of feel like it makes Stella feel like an anomaly rather than normalizing her family.

A Guide to Sisters

A Guide to Sisters by Paula Metcalf, pictures by Suzanne Barton

Little sisters are warm and squishy, but what do you do with them? This guide is probably best for young girls who have recently acquired little sisters and need a little humor to help with the difficult adjustment of no longer being the one-and-only. It’s too late for my oldest daughter, who has had a little sister for nearly nine years now. The lessons are silly and play with stereotypical sibling rivalry, but there’s a good underlying message.

Behold! A Baby

Behold! A Baby by Stephanie Watson, pictures by Joy Ang

And for boys with new baby brothers, there’s this book, which I admit I liked more. Maybe it’s because I’m a boy (though note that both of these sibling books were written and illustrated by women). A dad presents a baby to an adoring audience, detailing the wonderful things he can do, like smiling and eating a banana. The big brother, however, is not impressed and heckles–until he’s the only one who can interpret the baby brother’s babbling. And I love the illustrations by Joy Ang, who also illustrated the Mustache Baby series.

Maple & Willow Apart

Maple and WIllow Apart by Lori Nichols

Maple and Willow are sisters and they love playing together… but now it’s time for Maple to start kindergarten, and Willow is home alone. When Maple comes back, she just wants to talk about school, and Willow feels left out. This is a poignant book about dealing with changes, and the way both girls have to adjust to a shifting relationship. I haven’t read Nichols’ earlier books Maple and Maple and Willow Together, but I thought this was a thoughtful little book.

Double Happiness

Double Happiness by Nancy Tupper Ling, pictures by Alina Chau

Gracie and Jack are moving away from San Francisco to a home in the country, and they’re sad to leave behind Nainai and their aunt and uncle. Nainai gives them each a special box, and challenges them to find four treasures each to lead them from their old home to their new. The book is a series of poems, some in Gracie’s voice and some in Jack’s, about finding their way to a new place. Each poem has a title in Chinese above the English title, and I wish they’d included a glossary or pronunciation guide at the end for non-Chinese readers.

Sometimes You Need a Jellyfish

Sometimes You Need a Jellyfish by Chris Routly

And sometimes you need a laugh. Two tiger brothers, Perry and Parker, are packing up for a trip to see the grandparents, and Parker packed a jellyfish friend. In silly rhyming verse, Parker explains all the potential uses for a jellyfish, and he’s not afraid to use words like “bioluminescently,” either. But just wait until you see what Perry packed… Chris Routly is a dad blogger himself, and he used Kickstarter to fund the printing of this picture book, with more in the works.

Disclosure: I received review copies of these books.

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Jonathan H. Liu is a stay-at-home dad in Portland, Oregon, who loves to read, is always up for a board game, and has a bit of a Kickstarter habit.