In Our Mothers’ House – Perfect Picture Book Friday

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mothersTilte: In Our Mothers’ House

Author/illustrator: Patricia Polacco

Published by Philomel Books

Ages: 7-11

Themes: multi-cultural adoption, family life, community, lesbians, mothers

Opening Lines:

When my mothers told me about how they brought me home to live with them shortly after I was born, their eyes would shine and glisten and they would grin from ear to ear.


Two moms, Marmee and Meema and their three adopted children fill their lives with the typical pleasures of any happy family: new puppies, homemade family meals, laughter and neighbourhood parties. The story is narrated from the point of view of the eldest child, who is black, beginning with her arrival and then of her two siblings: an Asian boy called Will, and red-headed Millie. This family cooks together, laughs together and grows old together. Their lives are like any other family in their town. And while one of their neighbors struggles with this lesbian family, the two moms handle it with gentleness and grace, teaching their kids to do the same. Polaccio focusses on the tremendous support the family feels from their extended family and the rest of their neighborhood, who judging from the festivities and warmth, all love diversity. The story takes the readers right through to the arrival of grandchildren and eventual death of Marmee and Meema.

Why I like this book:

During her many author visits, Patricia Polucco saw the need for stories about children from wonderful, yet untraditional families. In Our Mothers’ House is one book that begins to meet that need. This story focuses on the joy of growing up in a healthy, yet diverse family. I like the fact that the diversity is two-fold, both ethnically diverse members and same-sex parents, celebrating both multicultural families and diverse parent structures. Children will be able to recognize that being different is not a negative, and that each family is blessed in its uniqueness.

Polacco’s illustrations were created in pencils and markers. Body language and facial expressions are exquisite. My favorite images are the animals, making gnocchi, on the stairs, and the penultimate one – “We watched our mothers grow old together in that house.’

It is a book soaked in joy and, I think for adults anyway, maybe a few happy tears at the end. Hope is sustained in the passing of positive virtues and love from one generation to the next. While the story content is relevant and appropriate for younger children the length of the text will make it hard for them to concentrate for a full reading. Look out for the two cats and traditional gnocchi-making. Yum!

A great springboard for a discussion into the many possible make-ups of a modern family.


Patricia Polacco has postcards from the book’s illustrations on her website, which children can send by email to friends.


Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book.  To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.
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27 Responses to In Our Mothers’ House – Perfect Picture Book Friday

  1. Ms. Polacco writes amazing stories. I’m not familiar with this one and I’m interested to find it to see if it has a conflict that the story is built around.

  2. Joanna says:

    Wendy, I confess that this one does not have the usual conflict we would expect from a picture book. I think the conflict is more subtle here and centers around the challenge of being a more diverse family than usual. It is more of a celebration, and maybe Polacco gets away with less conflict because she is such a gifted author and draws you into this family.

  3. Laura Renauld says:

    Thank you for sharing this much needed book. Every child should be able to see themselves and their family in the pages of a book. Bravo, Patricia Polacco!

  4. Amy D says:

    I love Patricia Polacco and do agree that her stories seem to fit a reader that is a bit older, mostly because of their length. I haven’t seen this one before, but am definitely going to check it out. Thanks, Joanna!

  5. I can’t believe I haven’t seen this Polacco book. It encompasses two very important subjects in such a loving way. And yes, Polacco tends to be wordy, but is able to pull it off. Her work is so loved by kids.

  6. Janet Smart says:

    Thanks for the review. I haven’t seen this book before.

  7. This is the one Polacco book I have read! I loved it. As you say, it’s a celebration of diversity — and I so appreciate books that show families with same-sex parents simply as ordinary families. I think this helps in encouraging people to accept diversity in family make-up, simply by seeing, “Hey, they’re just like us!” Thank you so much for featuring this book, Joanna.

  8. One of the things I liked about reading Dickens’ Copperfield recently, was that ALL the families were non-traditional. We need more modern books like this one!

  9. This is an interesting adoption book! I like the cover. It really shows how different families can be.

  10. Rhythm says:

    Ms Polacco can always be counted on for a good read. Her stories and illustrations bring depth and joy. Thanks for this lovely review!

  11. Joanna says:

    Rhythm, I confess I have read many of her books and have always enjoyed them!

  12. Oh, this sounds wonderful, Joanna. There is so much need for books like this – every kind of family should be celebrated, and kids should always have books in which they can find themselves. I’m a big Patricia Polacco fan already – score one more for her 🙂 So glad you’ve added this to our list!

  13. Thanks for sharing, Joanna. When I was a young child, the only available picture book about adoption was called The Chosen Baby, a gift to my parents when they adopted my brother & passed down to me as the second “chosen” one. Smiling white dad, in white shirt & tie, smiling white Mom, wearing an apron, of course, and perfect child. I remember appreciating the fact that I was “chosen” and “special;” that I was different from the parents who raised me, or that diversity should be celebrated, were not part of this story. So happy to see that times have changed!

  14. Joanna says:

    Patricia, I am so grateful for the many books available now that weren’t when we were young!

  15. Leslie Rose says:

    Patricia Polacco is amazing. I revere her. Her book, Thank You, Mr. Falker is one of the reasons I went into elementary teaching.

  16. Krista says:

    Patricia Polacco has always been one of my favorite authors. I too fell in love with, Thank You Mr. Falker. I have a library of her books. When my kids were young we went to the town where she lives in Michigan and toured her house and the Graves House. I have to add this book to my collection. Thank you, Joanna.

  17. I love that this book covers so many different areas of diversity – gender, ethnic, and cultural! As others have said, Patricia Polacco is an amazing writer and this is a book that is needed very much today. Thanks for sharing it with us, Joanna!

  18. Pingback: Gay Pride Month PB, MG and YA Book Recommendations | Miss Marple's Musings

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