Get a free SCARS short story. Sign up for News & Goodies from YA Author Cheryl Rainfield
Love my books? Join my Street Team! You'll have my deep gratitude, hear book news first, get swag, and enter to win private contests
Uplifting Picture Books That Don't Preach
Ryan's Mom is Tall
Ryan's Mom is Tall
by Heather Jopling, illustrated by Allyson Demoe
Nickname Press,(September 2006)
Ryan's Mom is tall.
Ryan's Mummy is short.
Ryan's Mom has curly hair.
Ryan's Mummy has straight hair.
--Ryan's Mom is Tall by Heather Jopling, illustrated by Allyson Demoe, p. 1-4.
There are not a lot of lesbian/gay themed picture books that are well written, and that do not make lesbians/gay children's books "issue books." So when there is a well written lesbian/gay book, it's a welcome addition. Ryan's Mom is Tall is one of those books. Ryan has two moms--and they are different in many ways, but similar in that they both love him. This picture book is not so much a story as a fun comparison of differences, often opposites, between Ryan's two mothers (one is short, one is tall; one does crossword puzzles, one plays hockey), and a validation and celebration of lesbian/gay families.
Jopling (Not-so-Only Child), in making the text a simple comparison of opposites (which young children often enjoy) gives the book a wide appeal, while subtly helping readers understand that a child having two moms is just another kind of family--a family full of love, like many others. The way the text is written helps normalize lesbian/gay families; there is no teaching or preaching, here, and that is a great strength. It also subtlety encourages readers to accept differences in people. Jopling's text is simple, with one short sentence per page.
Each of Ryan's mothers has her own specific name--one is called "Mom", and one is called "Mommy." This differentiation will be familiar to many readers in lesbian/gay families, and will help readers who aren't in lesbian/gay families to understand that there are two different mothers. The repetition of "Ryan's mom ..." and "Ryan's mummy..." is pleasing.
The ending is uplifting, satisfying, and brings reassurance as the reader sees that Ryan's mothers both love him.
Demoe's watercolor, colored pencil, and ink illustrations are bright, using a lot of yellows and oranges. Texture appears through the use of colored pencil. The characters are drawn loosely in a cartoon-like style, and most of the illustrations are of Ryan's mothers, individually, as differences are compared.
Each illustration, except for the closing one, is drawn in a frame that looks like a simple, though rather mundane, square puzzle piece placed on top of white space. The text appears both above and below each puzzle piece on the white space. The puzzle shapes always match each other in each spread where the two pages face each other, but are slightly different from all the others. This helps there be some visual variation, though I would have preferred more creative jigsaw shaped pieces, and not such uniform squares.
There is a bonus illustration just before the front matter that shows some of the puzzle pieces of Ryan's mothers (pictured small) all coming out of a puzzle box, where they obviously belong together. This helps introduce the book, visually showing readers that the jigsaw pieces are coming out of the box to be examined.
The illustrations never show either mother's face until the closing illustration. To achieve this, backs of heads are shown, hair or fog covers their faces on the side, or faces are in the white space created by the puzzle-piece frame, and thus not pictured. Though the intent may be to help make it easier for the reader to identify with the mother (so it's more anonymous), the faceless mothers may be disconcerting for some readers. However, this makes it particularly reassuring or fulfilling to see the mothers and the child pictured fully in the closing illustration.
Visually there are a few familiar things that may be reassuring to children of lesbian/gay parents, or at least familiar, such as the rainbows that appear in several illustrations (in one mother's hair tie, on one mother's hockey equipment, on one mother's olypmics shirt sleeve), and even things such as sandals or comfortable clothing. This is a lovely nod to the community, and young readers with lesbian/gay parents may feel at home. Also enjoyable is that both mothers have a "best" or "greatest" mother t-shirt (one for Mom, one for Mommy).
The closing illustration is both uplifting and also a great metaphor, where pieces of the jigsaw puzzle all come together to make the complete picture, as if all the illustrations that came before of Ryan's two mothers are what make their family complete. Faint outlines of the individual puzzle pieces show through in that closing illustration, and this works well. It helps make it clear on a visual level that Ryan and his two moms belong together and are inextricably part of each other's lives. On the page just before it, small puzzle pieces are scattered across the page as if they're flying towards the next page to make the final illustration, and this will help make the concept even more clear for some readers. It's a nice effect.
The book is not bound like many are that come from big publishers; the pages are stapled along the spine--but the book is full color, is an affordable price, and is an appealing, helpful book.
This is an important book and resource for all readers, not just children in lesbian/gay families. There are a growing number of lesbian/gay families, as well as many other different kinds of families; this book helps to illustrate that, and gently introduce children to the concept of same-sex families or even that families can be different than their own, all in a fun, direct way without preaching. It will also help children of lesbian/gay families to feel less alone, and to receive some validation and comfort. I think libraries, day care centers, and open-minded parents should all have a copy of this book, along with lesbian/gay families. Recommended!
-Added July 12, 2007
Want more books?
Go back to Being Yourself: Accepting & Believing In You to find great Uplifting Picture Books That Don't Preach.
Or, go to Uplifting Picture Books That Don't Preach to see all of the books.