Love Is What Makes Us a Family

Written and illustrated by Julia E. Morrison and Laura Knauer
32 pages  •  Published 2016 (Archway Publishing)
Book cover
Recommended Age Range: Preschool through 1st grade.
Publisher's Summary: Eliza is a six-year-old girl whose mom and dad are divorced. As Eliza adjusts to the changes in her family, she also realizes her mom is dating a woman. Eliza has many questions about this new situation, and through conversations with both of her parents, she begins to understand that families can take many forms. The love they have for one another is what is most important.
Book cover

Dr. Annie's Takeaways

Recommended for: This book showcases a family in which a little girl’s mom and dad get divorced, and both the mom and dad start dating women. It celebrates this family constellation and provides upbeat reassurance that mommies can date mommies and daddies can date daddies. This book is best for parents who have an amicable co-parenting relationship and would feel comfortable referring to their ex-spouse as a friend.
Evidence-Based Practices: Psychoeducation
Tone: Upbeat, sweet (maybe cloying)
Story Quality: This story isn’t terribly creative or artful, but it fills an important niche.
Illustrations: The illustrations are hand-drawn from colored pencil. They are cheerful and inoffensive. The characters are smiling in almost every picture.
Representation: The main character, Eliza, is a 6-year-old girl with a mom and dad who are divorced. She spends the first half of every week with her mom and the second half with her dad. Her dad has a new girlfriend, and so does her mom. All of the characters appear to be White. Eliza’s mom tells her, “I am gay, so that means I love girls,” and that she still loves Eliza’s dad “like a friend.”
Psychological Practices: This story briefly defines divorce (“Divorce is when two grownups decide not to be married anymore”) and very briefly acknowledges the painful feelings that come with this (“At first I was sad”). Eliza shares that she has gotten used to having two houses and that she likes her parents’ girlfriends. The rest of the book is spent with Eliza asking questions to her parents about her mother’s girlfriend. She asks her dad, “Why does mommy kiss girls,” and she asks her mom, “Why do you love girls now?” She also asks, “It’s okay that Mommy loves girls, right? Because girls can marry girls and boys can marry boys.” And she asks her mom, “Do you still love Daddy?” These questions are answered with responses like “sometimes mommies fall in love with mommies, and daddies fall in love with daddies.” The book concludes with the statement: “There are lots of different ways to be a family. The most important thing is that we are happy, and we love each other. Love is what makes us a family.” It’s a bit unrealistically upbeat (parent break-up is hard matter what), but it is great for explicitly normalizing and celebrating parents dating partners of a different gender than their former partner.
Concerns: None