CM . . .
. Volume XIII Number 20 . . . .May 25, 2007
Heather Jopling. Illustrated by Lauren Page Russell.
Coburg, ON: Nickname Press (Box 454, 39 Queen St., K9A 1M0 or www.nicknamepress.com), 2006.
24 pp., pbk., $9.95.
Preschool-grade 4 / Ages 4-9.
Review by Vivianne Fogarty.
When viewing the variety of "photographs" of Larissa's family, readers come across these captions.
This is my Auntie Cara and Uncle Bill. Auntie Cara is GrandEl's daughter. Their little girls are my cousins Lulu and Anna.
Uncle Bill is a firefighter and he's really strong. Lulu rides on his shoulders all the time.
This is my half-brother Ryan and his mummies Vivian and Carolyn.
My Daddy helped Vivian and Carolyn make Ryan, so my Daddy is Ryan's Daddy too. But Ryan doesn't call him Daddy, he calls him David.
Heather Jopling has written three books to highlight and celebrate the diversity of various family combinations: The Not-So-Only Child, Monicka's Papa is Tall, and Ryan's Mom is Tall. In this trio of books, Heather writes about her own family make-up and other families that she and her husband have helped to create. They are distributed by Nickname Press, her own independent publishing company.
In The No-So-Only Child, Jopling writes in the first person from her six-year-old daughter's (Larissa) point of view. In this book, we learn that an only child is not really an only child at all. Besides her own mother, father and pets, Lareissa goes on to present a very diverse and large extended family. Amongst the family members, we learn about her traditional grandmother and grandfather on her maternal side. On the paternal side, we meet the grandpa who has a new female partner. The paternal grandmother (GrandMer) is in a relationship with another woman called GrandEl. Various aunts and uncles, portraying different ethnic and racial backgrounds, are introduced along with their children. Aunts and uncles, both single and without children, also make up part of the extended family. Close female friends, called Auntie, also make it into the family photo album. Last but not least, Larissa introduces us to her half-sister and half-brother. Both of these children have same-sex parents, one set male and the other female. As a finale, everyone's pets are included.
The basic theme of this book is that this child may be an only child, but she is definitely not lonely. With a vast array of family members, it is obvious that this child has many close and positive relationships. She is also intrinsically involved with a wide diversity of family combinations, both traditional and non-traditional.
Above the illustrations of the family members, repetitive text, such as "This is my Grandma," is written in a bold font throughout the book. Below the illustrations, more detailed captions are provided about the family members written in a child-like font.
The various members of the extended family are presented in pencil crayon and ink illustrations in the form of "photographs." The photographs depict people involved in a variety of activities, including sports, music, as well as goofy and more formal poses. The main message in the photographs is warmth and happiness Although the illustrations depict the family members adequately; they do not have a professional look and appear somewhat flat. The child-like doodles around the photographs add an interesting contrast to the photographs. They are done in crayon, markers and pencil crayon. A more professional cover and binding might also add to the visual appeal of the book.
I think Jopling's book will help educate and encourage acceptance towards the diversity of family relationships seen in today's society. This book presents this child's extended and diverse family in a very normal, accepting fashion. If we want today's children to be exposed to diversity in relationships and to accept people for who they are, this book will help support this goal. Jopling's open and honest, child-like style will help expose children at an early age that differences and diversity in family relationships are to be cherished and celebrated like all other positive
Vivianne Fogarty is a teacher-librarian at Ecole Dieppe in Winnipeg, MB. She is also completing her teacher-librarian diploma through the University of Alberta.
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