CM . . .
. Volume XI Number 6 . . . .November 12, 2004
One afternoon Rosie arrives home to find her Mom all by herself dancing around the living room with the biggest smile on her face. She asks:
So begins a timely tale of same-sex marriage aimed at an audience of primary school children. The up-coming wedding of Rosie's two mothers, Mum and Mom, is seen through the eyes of an excited eight-year-old. Perhaps she can get to be a bridesmaid or at the very least flower girl. Disappointed when these two suggestions are nixed, Rosie comes up with a brilliant idea. She and Jack, Mum's little boy, can be ring-bearers and scatter some petals at the same time. Trying to practice holding rings and scattering flowers with a preschooler who is more interested in picking the scab from his knee is discouraging, but nevertheless, when the wedding day rolls around, Rosie is ready to take on her role. All goes famously, with rings and kisses exchanged, petals scattered, applause from all the guests and celebratory bubbles floating around the happy couple.
The publisher calls Mom and Mum are Getting Married "a ground-breaking new release," a descriptive phrase which can hardly be argued with. The few picture books that have featured gay couples as parents have not ventured into the more tricky area of same-sex marriage. Writing the story from the point of view of a child with two mothers helps to protect the book from an overly didactic ring. Happily (though perhaps somewhat unrealistically), all the adults in the story are delighted with the impending marriage of Rosie's two mothers. The question of whether the ceremony should be held in a church, with a minister officiating, or in a secular setting with a lay person officiating does not come up. What is slightly odd is that there is no mention of a ceremony of any sort, not even an exchange of vows. In fact, there is no hint of a commitment given by either partner. Although same-sex marriage is legal in three provinces now (and likely to have the same status in the rest of Canada in the near future), it appears that readers will have to wait for a book which will feature the couple being married in church or at a civil ceremony. In view of this peculiar omission (or is it an evasion?) in Mom and Mum are Getting Married, a young listener might be forgiven for wondering just what, other than an exchange of rings and a scattering of flower petals, the word "marriage" actually entails.
Author Ken Setterington is to be congratulated for keeping a light touch in his story. His goal of providing an open and accepting context for readers to ask questions and discuss ideas might otherwise have become heavy-handed or theme-driven. As it turns out, Mom and Mum are Getting Married has the innocent charm of its young protagonist, painting as it does a realistic picture of Rosie's concern over her special place in the imminent celebration.
Alice Priestley, best known perhaps for her illustration of Rachna Gilmore's Gita books, has done a fine job of bringing the characters of this simple story to life. Her paintings have perfectly caught the joyous mood which pervades the narrative as well as the soft green hues of early summer in eastern Canada.
Librarians and teachers will want to think carefully about the way to introduce this picture book to a class and to prepare for a discussion which may veer into some unexpected areas. It is to be hoped that there will be a place for Mom and Mum are Getting Married on the picture book shelves of an elementary school library, although no doubt community values will influence the decision to purchase or by-pass this book.
A retired teacher-librarian, Valerie Nielsen lives in Winnipeg, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.