In matter-of-fact prose and genial pen-and-ink drawings, Hoffman and Asquith reassure readers about something they may already know intuitively: there's no one right way to be a family. What sets their survey of familyhood apart in this growing genre is the collaborators' expansive take on demographics. They cover not only a wide range of parental and domestic arrangements, but also schooling, homes, consumerism, employment—or lack of it—and psychographics ("In some families everyone shares their feelings.... Sometimes not everyone in the family feels the same way about things"). Asquith's spreads have a lively, encyclopedic feel, with whimsical themed borders (variously clad feet march across the top of the "Transportation" section), occasional asides to the audience ("Is a teddy a pet?" a toy bear wonders), and a recurring cat character adding to the visual fun. "amilies can be big, small, happy, sad, rich, poor, loud, quiet, mad, good-tempered, worried, or happy-go-lucky," writes Hoffman in her wrapup. "Most families are all of these things some of time." It may not be Tolstoyan wisdom, but it's undeniably true. Ages 5–8. (Apr.)
K-Gr 2—With simple language, Hoffman describes almost every imaginable familial configuration, including those with single, same-sex, and foster parents. Asquith expands on the diversity suggested in the text by including mixed-race families and family members with disabilities in her color cartoon illustrations. Hoffman also discusses the differences in jobs, celebrations, clothes, hobbies, and pets found in the various types of homes. As she does so, she alludes to some difficult social issues such as homelessness and unemployment, but suggests that family members help one another through hard times. The artist adds simple clues to make some of these issues accessible to young children. For example, on the page where the parents are unemployed, the child is shown offering a small piggy bank to the concerned mother and father. Although the text is at times serious, the pages are busy and bright, and the format helps the book feel lighthearted and energetic. Todd Parr's The Family Book (Little, Brown, 2003) covers many of the same basic principles but is written for an even younger audience and uses animals to represent different kinds of families. In this book, children are likely to find representation of their own situations, whatever they may be, and assurance that their family is just right.—Donna Cardon, Provo City Library, UT
A primer on families in words and pictures. "Once upon a time," Hoffman begins, "most families in books looked like this." Asquith's illustration shows Caucasian daddy, mommy, son, daughter, dog and cat, all smiling and standing in a line. In the background is a neat little house with an apple tree, flowers and a white picket fence in front of it. "But in real life, families come in all sorts of shapes and sizes." Hoffman breaks it down with two-page spreads covering various topics: Who's in Your Family, Homes, School, Jobs, Holidays, Food ("Some moms and dads are great cooks...Others prefer to buy ready-made meals. Most families get their food from shops or markets. But some people grow their own") and more. Each spread is bordered by dozens of small illustrations; the spread on School, for example, features school books, varieties of writing utensils, paper and other items. The book ends with a challenge to try and make a family tree and a gallery of more than a dozen families, in framed pictures. "What's yours like today?" Hoffman asks. The text is packed with examples, and the same goes for Asquith's energetic watercolors. They celebrate diversity, not by proselytizing but by simply presenting it. For the very young, it will seem like a colorful reference book. A sublimely simple idea, brilliantly executed.(Picture book. 3-6)
"This clever book is taking a truly 21st Century look at family life… In spite of managing to reflect the reality of life for all families, the book refrains from making value judgements. No family is depicted as better or worse than any other – just different."
'Useful, funny and truthful'
'A wonderfully entertaining celebration of the huge diversity found within contemporary families.'
'It-s a book packed with detail, humour and interest, reminding us that there is no such thing as -normal- or -abnormal- - we are all equal. ..In terms of diversity in its widest sense, books simply don-t get much more inclusive than this.'
"This clever book is taking a truly 21st Century look at family life. In spite of managing to reflect the reality of life for all families, the book refrains from making value judgements. No family is depicted as better or worse than any other - just different."
'Useful, funny and truthful'
'It’s a book packed with detail, humour and interest, reminding us that there is no such thing as ‘normal’ or ‘abnormal’ – we are all equal. ..In terms of diversity in its widest sense, books simply don’t get much more inclusive than this.'