In 2016, I set a goal to read more diversely both to myself and aloud to my kids. As this year has unfolded, celebrating our differences has become more important than ever. 2016 has brought unspeakable tragedies born out of hate and ignorance – and the best way I know to fight those evils is to read books celebrating love and diversity. This month’s diverse kidlit choice is Heather Has Two Mommies, by Leslea Newman.
Heather is a little girl who loves the number two. She has two of almost everything, including eyes, ears, hands, feet, and pets.
Heather and her two mommies, Mama Jane and Mama Kate, live happily together in a little house surrounded by tall grass. Mama Jane has built Heather a tree house (she’s a carpenter) and Heather spends her days joyfully playing with her mommies.
One day, Mama Jane and Mama Kate tell Heather that it’s time for her to start school. (Note: and this would be why it is our September pick.) Heather is a little concerned – especially when her mommies tell her that she can’t bring her dog and cat with her – but Mama Jane and Mama Kate assure her that school is going to be wonderful.
And it is! Heather has a little trouble saying goodbye at dropoff, but she quickly finds all the fun in her new classroom.
After nap, the teacher reads the children a book about a veterinarian, prompting a class discussion of their parents’ careers. When Heather mentions that her mommy is a doctor (Mama Kate’s job) one of the little boys asks her what her daddy does. Confused, Heather wonders if she’s the only one in the class who doesn’t have a daddy.
Ms. Molly, the teacher, saves the day with a quick-thinking suggestion that the children all draw pictures of their families. And it turns out that not only is Heather not the only one without a daddy, no two families in the class look alike. There’s a little girl with two daddies, another little girl who lives with her grandmother, a little boy who has a stepfather, and more. One family may have been completed through adoption (it’s a bit ambiguous) and other families include extended family members.
The children proudly display their pictures and Ms. Molly explains that while none of the families are exactly alike, they are all special – and that the most important thing about a family is LOVE.
Heather shows off her picture to Mama Jane and Mama Kate, and then the whole family – dog and cat included – walks home together.
Heather Has Two Mommies is an absolute classic. I knew it had been around for awhile, but I was floored when I checked the copyright date – first publication 1989! Wow! Talk about a book that was not only ahead of its time but that has displayed remarkable – and well-deserved – longevity. It makes perfect sense to me that Heather Has Two Mommies has becomes such a classic. The watercolor illustrations are charming, and through both Heather’s wide, happy smile and the warm writing, you can really feel the love that Heather’s mommies have for each other and for her. It’s a wonderful way to introduce a child to the concept that no two families are the same, and that love is the binding element that makes a family.
Ever since I picked Heather Has Two Mommies up at a preschool book fair back at Peanut’s old school in Buffalo, it’s been a family favorite. Peanut asks me to read it almost every night and she delights in shouting out the names of Heather’s pets. (She is also invariably surprised and delighted – at top volume – that she shares a name with one of the other little girls in Heather’s class.) I couldn’t be more pleased that she loves Heather Has Two Mommies so much. We’re a fairly traditional-looking family (a dad, a mom, a sister and a brother) and I think it’s incredibly important for Peanut to read books that will showcase other family structures, and particularly, celebrate loving same-sex relationships and the families that grow up around them. I can’t think of a single complaint about Heather Has Two Mommies – it’s a joyful, sweet, loving book that I am proud to read to Peanut every night (sometimes three times).
What diverse books are you reading this month?