My niece and her partner spend a lot of time with our children. Our seven and nine-year-old daughters know all about "happily ever after" but I don't think they have any models of that applying in same-sex relationships. I'd like to find some books with positive images of such relationships for them and some picture books on the same subject for our five-year-old son. Are there any?
In reflecting a wide range of lives, children's books have come a very long way in the last fifty years. In Mary Hoffman's The Great Big Book of Families, for example, a compendium of stories with its engaging and witty illustrations by Ros Asquith, families of all kinds are celebrated with equal zest and understanding in one volume that is perfect for any family to share. But maybe not far enough as it still seems hard to find fiction for younger readers which includes friends or relatives in same sex relationships. While there are now many books for teens which centre on them and also a fair number of picture books, there are not so many for the readers in between.
In the UK a lovely example of a delightful older female couple is in John Boyne's The Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby Brocket. Boyne mentions it but makes nothing special of it but their existence would quietly show your daughters that there is a happy ever after.
More obvious and very much a celebration of "happy ever after" as there is a wedding in it, is Jennifer Gennari's My Mixed-Up Berry Blue Summer. An American title, its plot revolves around June and the pie-making competition she enters but it is also much about her family which includes her mom and her mom's new partner who will be her step-mother when they get married.
Also from the US are the several volumes of Amy Ignatow's The Popularity Papers, funny and sharply observed stories about best-friends Julie and Lydia, who among other things, try to work out what it takes to be popular in a new school. Always supportive in the background are Julie's two dads who frame her life and happiness in an unquestioned and unquestioning way. Any of these stories show same sex parents in exactly they way they would should heterosexual parents.
For a five-year-olds, again, mostly from the US with some from Scandinavia, there is a great deal of choice of stories about parents of all kinds and some nice, happily ever after one too.
Lesléa Newman has written many books with same sex parents. Her most happily ever after story is Donovan's Big Day which revolves around the day his two mums get married.
There is also a wedding in Ken Setterington's Mom and Mum are getting Married but the story is really about whether their daughter Rosie will get them to have the kind of wedding she wants!
In Linda De Haan and Stern Nijland's King and King two princes get married while in the sequel King and King and Family they adopt a little girl. Both show the happy and permanent nature of all the relationships.
With thanks to BJ Epstein for her helpful advice.
Enjoying books with your babies and younger children? Why not think about becoming one of our family reviewers and sharing the books you love? We are now doing this as a monthly Witness project feeding into our family review galleries – check out May's family reading project.
Do you have a question for the Book Doctor? Email [email protected] or pose your question on Twitter @GdnchildrensBks using #BookDoctor.