________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number 3. . . .September 23, 2016


A Family is a Family is a Family.

Sara O’Leary. Illustrated by Qin Leng.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood/House of Anansi Press, 2016.
32 pp., hardcover & ePub, $18.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55498-794-8 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-55498-795-5 (ePub).

Subject Heading:
Families-Juvenile fiction.

Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 4-7.

Review by Val Nielsen.

***1/2 /4



We were talking about families at school.
The teacher asked us what we thought made our family special.
I went last because I wasn't sure what to say. My family
is not like everyone else's...


There are 12 children in the class, each of whom has responded to the teacher's question (found in the above excerpt). Every student tells the class what makes his or her family special. As well as the traditional mother-father grouping, the children describe many different sorts of families, including those with two mums or two dads, single, separated or handicapped parents, blended and foster families.

internal art     The comments that the students make are typically child-like and often humorous. Says one little girl: "My mom and dad have been best friends since first grade. They really like each other. It's kind of gross.” One child points out: "I have more grandparents than anybody else I know." Another classmate remarks: "We have a new baby in our house. I think my mom ordered him online."

     There is indeed a remarkable diversity in the make-up of the families of the dozen children, a range of difference that would not be likely to shock or surprise teachers in today's schools. The first speaker's story actually turns out to be the last one in the series of the 12 family descriptions. Young listeners will have fun matching each of the students with his or her family as they go through A Family is a Family is a Family.

     Qin Leng, a film animator and artist who loves to focus on children, has illustrated picture books, magazines and book covers for many publishers. Her soft pastel illustrations have a distinctly natural and humorous feel to them. She has a real gift for creating character with her drawings.

     Sarah O'Leary is an award-winning author and playwright who is well known for “The Henry Books”, a trilogy published by Simply Read books which includes When You Were Small, Where You Came From and the last one, When I Was Small, which won the B.C. Book Prize for best children's book in 2012.

     In A Family is a Family is a Family, writer and illustrator have managed to put together a light-hearted little tale for our time. There is no heavy-handed lesson in its pages, but much to chuckle and wonder at, thanks to both artists. It is to be hoped that the majority of teachers and librarians will find A Family is a Family is a Family a worthwhile book to read and discuss with their Kindergarten to Grade Two students.

Highly Recommended.

Val Nielsen, a retired teacher-librarian, lives in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
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