Monday, March 26, 2012

Media Literacy Begins Early: Children's Books

cross posted from my Media Literacy column

Sometime in the next few weeks I’m going to be an Auntie/Tia/Titi. My sister has always wanted a family. When she married her wife last year in Washington, DC, the Big Fat Puerto Rican Lesbian Wedding we had was marvelous! They began to plan for their family and the time is arriving for my nephew to be born. Our families and communities are so excited for his arrival!

As I prepare to become a Tia/Auntie the first thing I looked for were books including same gender parents, mainly women. It was not an easy search. It’s not as rare as it once was, but it’s still a hunt! Because I know how challenging this can be, I’ve decided to share a list of the books I’ve found and purchased for my nephew. These are books that are often still in print, affordable, well-written, and engaging. Children’s books are important forms of media that are also markers of class status. I like to purchase books for children instead of toys because I value them, especially in a time when books are now becoming paperless, I’d like to transmit this value to my nephew. Finding a book that represents our family, struggles, successes, and love is essential to my ideas of media literacy and media justice.

The first challenge was finding a book about two mami’s. It’s not too hard to find a book about two mommy’s but finding one on two women of Color was a whole other challenge. Then, to find a book that had mami’s of Color and children of Color was another challenge. Add to that trying to find a book that had characters of Color, same gender parents, and then ones that had two mami’s raising a son and them being in bilingual in English and Spanish, the search was exhausting! But, they do exist.

Here are the books I purchased for my nephew:

Antonio’s Card/La Tarjeta de Antonio by Rigoberto Gonzalez and Cecilía Alvarez

This book follows Antonio who is creating a Mother’s Day card in his class. He wants to include his mother’s partner, Leslie, but does not want to be made fun of by his classmates. Leslie picks him up from school every day and they spend time together before his mother arrives. I picked this book because it is bilingual (and one of the only ones), discusses a Latino boy (of which my nephew is), and because of how Leslie is described and drawn. She is someone described as being tall and large that she towers over Antonio, she wears baggy overalls that have paint splattered on them because she is an artist, and has short dark hair. Leslie really does look and sound like my sister and her gender expression being more lax with embracing more baggy clothing than her wife. It was the perfect book for our family and I am so excited to have found the book.


The Story of Colors/La Historia de los Colores: A Bilingual Folktale from the Jungles of Chiapas by Subcomandante Marcos and Domitila Domínguez.

I often purchase this book for the new parents in my life. The story is created by Subcomandante Marcos of the Mexican Zapatistas guerilla movement, an indigenous rights and equality movement. The illustrator is Domitila Domínguez, an indigenous artist from Oaxaca, Mexico. This book is so beautiful and shares the story of how colors have come into our world and lives. There are animals that help in sharing the story of how the gods decided to add color to our world. The narrative includes indigenous traditions and rituals, as well as the reality of what indigenous people in Mexico struggle with to maintain and preserve their cultural practices and rituals.



My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis and Suzanne DeSimone

Based on lived experiences of parent and author Cheryl Kilodavis, we follow the story of a young boy of Color who challenges the way we imagine femininity and masculinity in young children. He enjoys exploring what makes him feel most genuine as each day comes whether it may be “pink and sparkly things. Sometimes he wears dresses, and sometimes he wears jeans.” One of the few stories for young children that discusses gender, identity, and challenges how we socialize our children. Visit the book website and listen to Kilodavis discuss her book.


Heather Has Two Mommies
by Lesléa Newman and Diana Souza

This was the first children’s book that featured two same gender parents that were lesbians raising a daughter. It is a classic that celebrated it’s 20th anniversary edition in 2009 and is now published in color. My sister specifically requested this book for their library. Author Lesléa Newman has written several books and many are on this list. This book follows Heather and we meet her family which includes Mama Kate, Mama Jane and her dog Midnight. The book centers love that is found in many families regardless of how they are formed.

A Tale of Two Mommies by Vanita Oelschlager and Mike Blanc

This book takes place on the beach where two boys have a conversation about their families. A girl nearby listening joins in and we hear how they have questions for the little boy who has two mommies. The boy in the book is a boy of Color, and the two mommies could be women of Color as well, but I read them as racially white. If the child was adopted this is not discussed.


>Be Who You Are by Jennifer Carr

One of the few books that centers transgender children, Be Who You Are tells the story of Nick. Assigned sex at birth male, Nick sees and believes herself to be a girl. The story follows Nick’s family who is supportive, loving, and works with Nick and her school to create and maintain a supportive environment.

Books To Purchase In The Future


Felicia’s Favorite Story by Lesléa Newman and Adriana Romo

Centers on Felicia who was adopted by her mothers Nessa and Linda. It follows a similar narrative that Newman is famous for: centering love in families. We learn how Felicia’s mama’s went about adopting her from Guatemala.




Mommy, Mama, and Me by Lesléa Newman and Carol Thompson

Follows a lesbian couple and their child on a regular day. They go to the park to play, take a bath, have dinner, and a bedtime story. I read one of the parents as a woman of Color, so this is also an interracial book for some families.


>And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson, Peter Parnell and Henry Cole

Based on a true story that took place at the New York City Central Park Zoo about two male penguin’s Roy and Silo. They decide they wish to become parents and find an egg shaped rock to care for. When one zookeeper notices and provides them with an egg that needs attention, Roy and Silo care for their egg until it hatches and they have a daughter. The family is still at the Central Park Zoo!

The Family Book by Todd Parr

This book celebrates the differences and diversity found in families and includes same-gender parents. A picturesque story of how differences are important to recognize and value using the example of family formation.



In Our Mother’s House by Patricia Polacco

Centering on lesbian parents who have a large family, In Our Mother’s House shares a story that we rarely hear. Narrated by a young Black girl who was adopted by two white women she calls Marmee and Meema, she shares how her family evolved to include an Asian brother and red-headed sister. This book is one that shares how the community is supportive and a part of their family. It is the first book that has all the characters age and the ending is one that is epic.

Out of Print & Hard To Find (in the US)

123: A Family Counting Book
by Bobbi Combs
Is a counting book up to the number 20. The images depict gay and lesbian parents and their children. The publishing company is a gay and lesbian centric one called Two Lives Publishing where online ordering is coming soon.

ABC: A Family Alphabet Boo
k by Bobbi Combs

Similar to the Family Counting Book, this book helps children learn the alphabet featuring gay and lesbian parents. Published by Two Lives publishing online ordering should be available soon, and hopefully it won’t be over $25!

Asha’s Mums by Rosamund Elwin, Michele Paulse and Dawn Lee

Follows Asha, a African-Canadian girl whose family becomes of interest to her teachers and classmates because her parents are lesbians. This book has a more specific and overt homophobic tone as it features Asha’s teachers telling her she can’t have two mothers.


Keesha & Her Two Moms Go Swimming by Monica Bey-Clarke, Cheril N. Clarke, Michelle Hutchinson, and Aiswarya Mukherjee

We follow Keesha as she goes swimming with her parents and meets up with her friend Trevor who has a similar family as she does: two fathers. Keesha is a young girl of Color and she has parents of Color as well.


Molly’s Family by Nancy Garden and Sharon Wooding

Following a similar story found in Antonio’s Card, Molly creates an image of her family featuring her two mothers. When a classmate tells her that she can’t have two mommies Molly doesn’t know how to respond.

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