There are a LOT of children’s books about families that sweetly catalog and celebrate families of all kinds. They’re very reassuring, educational for some kids, and I’m glad they exist. I’m happy to read each of them with Boy Detective once. Or maybe twice.
The books below, on the other hand, celebrate families by telling engaging stories about family members’ relationships with each other. I’ll read these many times over. I would LOVE to include more books about people of color, people with disabilities, and varied family types in this list, so hit me in the comments with any suggestions!
Brothers of the Knight by Debbie Allen, with art by Kadir Nelson. Nelson is one of my all-time favorite children’s book artists, so I checked this one out and read it by myself before Boy Detective even had a chance to look at it. Re-reading it with him was a delight, because he enjoyed the magical tale as much as I did. It’s a remix of the classic fairytale The Twelve Dancing Princesses, except with 12 boys of a single dad preacher in Harlem. Narrated by the family dog, the text is full of energy and fun.
My Name is Elizabeth, by Annika Dunklee, illustrated by Matthew Forsythe. Elizabeth is no one’s Lizzy, Liz, Beth, or Betsy – and she’s not shy about letting you know! But there is one special someone who can get away with calling her something else. I love Elizabeth’s mix of regal pronouncements and friendliness, and the reactions of all the townspeople to her declarations. There are lots of fun little details going on in the rooms of her house too.
How To Be A Baby, by Sally Lloyd-Jones and Sue Heap. I didn’t know if Boy Detective would get this, since he is an only child, but luckily he has met quite a few babies, so he thought it was hilarious. The narrator is the big sister, and she can tell you ALL about how bad it is to be a baby. You can’t do anything fun, you can’t eat anything good, and when you’re bad you get put in baby prison (playpen.) Of course, she also spends the whole book entertaining the baby and smiling at him, and she has already worked out a plan for all the fun things they’re going to do when he gets bigger. So it’s funny, especially for grownups who have met that older child who’s full of opinions about the younger sibling, but it’s also sweet.
What! Cried Granny by Kate Lum, with illustrations by Adrian Johnson. Patrick’s ready for bed at Granny’s, but there are so many things missing! Luckily, Granny will stop at nothing to make things right. Anyone who’s known a good grandma will enjoy her determination to make her beloved grandson happy and comfortable.
Lester’s Dreadful Sweaters by K.G. Campbell. Okay, so MOST of these books are “funny, touching, and celebrate family”? This one’s a tiny bit different! You know that cousin, that no one knows how they’re related, but they keep showing up at family gatherings? Cousin Clara is THAT cousin. Except she doesn’t get drunk or make inappropriate jokes or try to borrow money or set the couch on fire by accident. She KNITS. Horrible, horrible sweaters that Lester’s parents insist he wear. Is he doomed? So funny.
And that’s the list! If you have any suggestions, please leave them in the comments – and thanks for sharing on social media or with friends!