By: Amber Leventry
One man. One woman. One family. One of many stories. In a children’s book by veteran writer George Shannon, One Family shows us that family can no longer be defined in only this way. The picture of what family looks like is changing. Love, tradition, and pride are still cornerstones, but the individuals who make a family come in an endless array of colors, genders, and generations.
Shannon and Illustrator Blanca Gomez use simple, yet meaningful text and beautiful artwork to showcase the meaning of family. Starting with the number one and going to ten, each page with text has three corresponding lines: “One is one. One lamp. One clock. One book to share…One is ten. One batch of cookies. One shelf of books. One family.” In a theme fitting the phrase “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” Gomez’s illustrations bring layers of warmth and understanding to the text.
There is no one way to be a family. Shannon hits a home run by emphasizing this with characters of different ethnicities, ages, and races. The book has a rhythm that is predictable yet pleasing, making it one that is easy to read over and over again. I also love that instead of telling the readers who the people are in each family, the author lets the pictures tell the story, allowing individuals to apply it to their own family. Each two-page spread features the same number of people as the number focused on in the text. One picture shows two men and a little girl, the next shows two children with an older man and woman.
From small families to large, young to old, and a mix of it all, One Family reminds us that our country is a melting pot to be celebrated and not feared. One picture has a family at the zoo with a presumably Sikh man wearing a turban. Other pictures include men with their arms around one another and two women with a small child taking a cake to an older neighbor. It is a reminder that even though some diverse families are the minority in their town, they are just as important. And it’s a reminder that diversity has many different looks, but love is the common thread running through all families.
Single parents, gay parents, transgender parents, stepparents, and adoptive parents are the new normal and the new face of family. The traditional family of a father, mother, and their biological children should no longer be called traditional; nontraditional families deviating from this picture are now the majority of American families. Over the last several years, The United States Census shows an increase in stay at home dads, single parents, unmarried couples with kids, and interracial couples.
Yet, as gay dad Henry Amador, a writer for The Next Family, mentioned in his recent article about his struggle to adopt another child, work still needs to be done to change opinions on what it means to be a family. Amador sited that the there are five times the number of LGBT parents willing to adopt than there are kids in the foster care system. That seems silly. It’s a shame for same-sex couples aching for a family and a shame for kids who want to be loved.
George Shannon understands it. Blanca Gomez lovingly illustrates it. It may be less graceful, but society will eventually get it too. Narrow minds will disappear, continually replaced by the new face of family and by those traditional families who have always embraced us.
Shannon leaves us with this, “One is one and everyone. One earth. One world. One family.”