Tag Archives: The Great Big Book of Families

Books for a Future

12 Nov


We are all reeling from the American election results and the impact a Trump-led leadership is already having on tolerance, equality and justice. And all that on top of our own Brexit backlash! This shift to a right wing leadership is going to have a huge impact on the most vulnerable in our communities and will leave a lasting legacy for our children to fix. 

So what can we do? We can stand together and stand up to bigotry and hate. Now is the time for solidarity, kindness and inclusion. It’s more important than ever to teach the children in our lives to stand up for what they believe in and to look out for others. My social media has been full of positivity and plans for action. It’s one of the things I love most about social media – when the shit hits, there’s always an uprising of hope. 

So here’s what I’m going to do, and I’d love for you to join me…

*Goes full Whitney* I believe the children are our future. And I believe that books can change the world. So I’m going to bring the two together by gifting an empowering, inclusive book to my local school every month, as well as highlighting the best of the bunch on here. 

Books teach children about the world they live in, and in turn about tolerance, appreciating diversity and supporting others. I want to arm children with these qualities. They are going to need them!

This is something everyone can do to make a difference. We all have children in our lives, whether in our families, in our social groups or in our communities. Sharing empowering books with them could make all the difference. And it doesn’t have to cost money. You could donate your time and talk to these kids about books and the world, or share the book recommendations with parents and teachers you know to help get these books to the kids. 


The first book I’m going to give is Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World by Kate Pankhurst (Bloomsbury). It seems very apt! I love this book more than I can say. It’s a hugely empowering, fun and fact-filled picture book about women who changed the world across very different fields, including Coco Chanel, Frida Kahlo, Marie Curie, Mary Anning, Mary Seacole, Amelia Earhart, Agent Fifi, Sacagawa, Emmeline Pankhurst, Rosa Parks, and Anne Frank. I want to push this book into the hands of every girl and tell them it will be okay. That they can do it. That we believe in them and that we’ve got their backs. 


Want to join me? Perhaps you could gift a book to your local school, library or community group? Or to a child in your life? Perhaps you could give your time to read with a child at a local school. Have a look at Beanstalk and see if they work with schools in your area. Because reading unlocks the future. 

Sadly this awesome book is out of stock pretty much everywhere at the moment – that’s how good it is! – but more stock is coming and there are tons of fantastically inclusive and inspirational books out there. Perhaps you could gift one of these:

If you are concerned about right wing views on refugees and migration you could gift The Journey. If you fear for the freedom of the press and the impact of a biased media you could give Girl with a White Dog. If you want to empower young women you could give What’s a Girl Gotta Do? If you want to support inclusion try any of The Great Big Book… series. For LGBT awareness you could gift Made By Raffi. Or have a look at Letterbox Library for inspiration. 

I’ll be using #booksforafuture to share the book giving and highlight other awesome world-changing and empowering books that our children deserve in their lives. Come and join me. What books would you add to the list? 

Welcome to the Family

9 Jul

Last night Mollie was reading an old finding out book about the body. She called me upstairs and asked “It says that when they grow up a man and a woman can live together and have a baby but it doesn’t say that a woman and a woman can, or a man and a man can. Why?”
Gulp!
She had been looking up belly buttons in the index and come across a very high level and outdated ‘making babies’ page. Mollie has two mums. We have always been honest with her and answered any questions that arise and she knows that the doctors put the man’s seed into my tummy to make her because we were two mummies. But this book dated from my childhood and it confused her. And I was the stupid mum who left it on her bookshelf.

Luckily, just a few days before, this gem had arrived through the door:

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By the inclusion dream team of Mary Hoffman and Ros Asquith, Welcome to the Family follows in the footsteps of their previous non-fiction books Great Big Book of Families and Great Big Book of Feelings and explores all the diverse ways a baby or child become members of a family. It covers natural birth into a nuclear family, fostering, adoption, same sex families, surrogacy, IVF and more, all in their inclusive, child-friendly and humorous style.
I knew Mollie was in safe hands.

The overriding message of this book is that all families are different and all families are equally valid and special. A message that is so important for children and their families to hear and see. I wish something like this had been available when I was a child – what a lot of progress has been made in one generation. Hurrah to that. The sentence that is repeated and emphasised throughout is ‘the children are very welcome.’ No matter what the family make up, or how the child came into the family, they are welcome. They are special. They are valid. Affirming stuff.

Affirming, but also honest. I love that the Hoffman/Asquith dream team don’t shy away from honesty. They show such respect for the children that will be reading their books. They respect their right to see themselves portrayed in an honest and truly reflective way. So we see that families are complicated. Things don’t always go smoothly and children aren’t always perfectly happy. They show us reality. And that can be equally as affirming – seeing a family in a book that is going through a tricky patch just like yours is, seeing that it is normal and okay to feel angry and jealous and frustrated and worried and all the other million emotions that a child will go through. That is a hugely affirming and positive message for a child.

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Mollie’s friends come from all sorts of different families and came into their families in all sorts of different ways – they are all different and all special. Mollie knows that and is happy and comfortable talking about it. But a book that reflects that is such an important resource. Mollie has devoured it, reading it to herself and hunting through the illustrations. She has found her friends who are adopted, found her friends who are in foster care, found her friends that have blended families, mix race families, one parent, two parents, three parents… She has found herself and how she came to be in our family. All that from one book. Impressive stuff!

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I used it to support her last night. Imagine if every teacher or adult who works with children had access to a copy. Imagine the ways in which it could be used to help children see themselves and their place in families, to help them through a change in the family – a new sibling, fostering, adoption, a new parental relationship. To help them understand all the diverse families they will come across in their lives. It has such potential.

Perhaps Gove should scrap all his education reform and, instead of donating a King James Bible to every school, he could put a set of the Hoffman/Asquith books in every school library. He could change the world.

This wonderful book is due to be published 4th September 2014- just in time for the new school year. I’ll be getting a copy for Mollie’s school library and probably a few as presents for some beautiful families I know. But this copy is staying right here on Mollie’s bookshelves, replacing the outdated body book and ready to give her an affirming inclusive nod whenever she may need it.

Thank you Mary, Ros and everyone at Frances Lincoln for making this book available to her and all her peers. You have made a difference.

Source- kindly sent for review by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

The Great Big Book of Families

23 Jul

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill was finally passed last week, meaning that my wife and I can now legally get married and enjoy full equality. Hurrah!! The Equal Marriage campaign has been a long fight and is a huge success for equality. It is a campaign that I am very proud to have been a small part of.

In celebration, I have been drinking a few cocktails and reading The Great Big Book of Families by Mary Hoffman and Ros Asquith. The nature and definition of family came up again and again during the Equal Marriage readings in the House of Commons and same sex relationships and families were compared with bigamy and incest. As a gay mum, it was increasingly hard for me to watch people talk about my family in such negative terms. The Great Big Book of Families has been the perfect antidote to all that hateful, ignorant language. It is a brilliantly inclusive book that shows real families in an honest light. Each double page spread explores diverse family set ups and looks at different family experiences of subjects like jobs, school, holidays, pets, food and clothes.

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Perhaps if Stonewall had given out copies of this book with their speaking notes the MPs would have found it easier to understand the nature of families today and the bill would have passed through quickly and easily. Imagine if books like this had been available when the people passing these laws were children. What a lot of time and pain could have been saved.

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The Great Big Book of Families is included in the early years This Is Me! book pack produced by the genius team of Letterbox Library and Inclusive Minds. And for very good reason. I will never forget the joy on our daughter’s face when she first saw the page above and recognised her family. “I have two Mummies!” Delicious! Every child should be able to have that pride of recognition and every child can with this book. It covers such a wide range of families and family experiences, there truly is something here that every child can relate to.

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It goes without saying that every colour and culture is depicted here, and there is a brilliantly positive illustration of a girl using a walking frame having a great time splashing about with buckets of water. Also a big hurrah for the boy in a dress. This has inclusion and equality by the bucket load.

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I love the honesty in this book. It isn’t afraid to show family life as it really is, the ups and downs and the bits without the fairy tale ending. This is how it should be. I believe that children should be able to learn about the world around them and how they fit into it, and that there are ways to make the realities of life accessible to children. Poverty, homelessness, depression, loss are all difficult subjects to explain to children. But if a child has direct experience of one or more of those subjects then books like this can be hugely empowering and supportive for them as they see their situation and learn that they are not alone, that other children and families have similar experiences. How often as adults do we read a book to find ourselves and gain comfort from reading about a similar failed relationship, lost love or discovery of self? Children do the same thing with their books. It is how they learn about themselves and their place in the world. We shouldn’t worry about sheltering children from the bads and sads of life, we should be gently showing them that whatever they are experiencing is ok, is a part of life and that they can get through it or help others to get through it.

The Great Big Book of Families does this in such an accessible way that it becomes appropriate for a wide range of age groups. The short sentences on each spread act as a springboard for discussion, suggesting that some people can’t get a job or won’t go to school or can’t afford a holiday. The illustrations show examples of different kinds of jobs, homes or clothes. Everything here is set up for children to pour over, discuss and question. It is a book that you can read with a three year old, pointing out illustrations that are relevant to their life, and then with a seven year old, identifying links to their family and asking and answering questions.

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This is an important book. I genuinely believe that this book could do much to support the children who need it most. I will be buying a copy for the Rainbow Library for the new school year. After all, the children who read it might be the lawmakers of our future.

Source: Our lovely local library.