Review: We Are Family

“Each family is different; it may be large or small. / We may look like each other – or not alike at all.” p. 21

We Are Family by Patricia Hegarty, illustrated by Ryan Wheatcroft.
Tiger Tales, Caterpillar Books Ltd., Wilton, CT, 2017.
Picture book, 22 pages.
Not yet leveled.

A sweet vintage-style picture book depicting similar moments in the lives of ten very different families.

We Are Family cover

This British book is a bit off the beaten path.  I think I was looking for family books that were inclusive of foster and adoptive kids, and this certainly fits that mold.

First, let me attempt to describe the 10 families.  They are usually shown five on each side of a two-page spread, although the middle ones move back and forth.

  1. A family consisting of a blonde father and a darker-skinned Asian mother with short hair.  One boy looks like the father and one girl looks like the mother.  The children seem to be the same age.
  2. A family consisting of a blonde mother, brunette father, and four white children who all appear similar to the parents.
  3. A family consisting of a dark-skinned/black mother, a red-headed white mother, and a girl with light skin and dark hair.
  4. A family consisting of white parents and a dark-skinned son.
  5. A family consisting of two black parents and black daughter.
  6. A family consisting of two parents with darker skin who might be South Asian, and their daughter.  The mother has long braided hair and wears dresses, the father is the only one with a beard.  The daughter has short hair.
  7. A family consisting of two parents with medium skin tone, a boy who uses a wheelchair, and a dog.
  8. A family consisting of two elderly white parents or grandparents, and a blonde boy.
  9. A family consisting of an Asian mother and her daughter.
  10. A family consisting of two white fathers with different shades of brunette hair, and their red-headed son.  One of the fathers wears glasses.

All of my conjecture about possible ethnicities is just that.  Some of the characters have their eyes drawn differently, which is why I guess that some families have certain ethnic backgrounds.  One could also guess that #1 is a divorced/remarried family, #4 is an adoptive family, and #9 is a single mother, but actually any of these families could fit multiple categories.  We are never given the names or backgrounds of the families, so the stories can fit a wide variety of situations.  #9 could be the story of a family separated by immigration laws, #2 could be an adoption story, #8 could be adoptive parents as well, or just parents late in life rather than grandparents.

We Are Family p 1-2
We Are Family pages 1 and 2.

This book leaves a lot of room open to the imagination, and has a lot of details for children to pore over.  Surprisingly, this doesn’t do great as a read-aloud, at least with a large group of children.  Why not?  I think it’s because the story is so reliant on the details.  Sitting far back in a large group, it’s difficult to tell that the book continues the story of the same 10 families, rather than a series of disconnected vignettes.

I personally loved the artwork, but I will admit the kids didn’t love it so much.  They mostly felt the color palette was too dull, and the cover seemed more vibrant than the interior.  Once I pointed out the individual stories, there was more interest, but it wasn’t obvious on the first read-through.  The sweet modern-vintage vibe totally won me over, but it didn’t sway the youngest generation.

There were surprisingly few Hispanic families shown (the fathers of #5 or 6 could be, and a few others), but once I looked into the publishing information, that made sense – this book is aimed at demographics in the UK, not the US.  Thankfully, the open-ended nature of the book makes this approachable for all sorts of families.  (For this reason I’ve included a variety of tags, even though some groups are more clearly represented.)

I actually wasn’t sure whether to mark this as fiction or nonfiction, because the illustrations clearly show various fictional families, but the text is non-fictional.

We Are Family inside cover resized
Inside front cover of We Are Family.

Each page has a couplet, including the front and back endpapers, which really begin and end the story.  The rhymes are well written and focus on general situations common to all families – spending time together, mornings, transportation, illness, special fun days, difficult times, caring for one another, and bedtime.  The front and back pages compile images from the entire book, although they have new rhymes not seen elsewhere in the text.

This wasn’t quite what I was originally looking for or expecting, but it’s still a good addition to our library of foster/adopt-positive works.  I’d especially recommend it to my friends in the UK.

Author: colorfulbookreviews

I work in a library by day and parent the rest of the time. I am passionate about good books representing the full spectrum of human diversity for every age group and reading level. This blog is my attempt to help parents, educators, and librarians find the best children's books authored by or featuring characters of color.

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