Author/illustrator: Patricia Polacco
Published by Philomel Books
Themes: multi-cultural adoption, family life, community, lesbians, mothers
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!