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Who's in a Family?


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About the Author

ROBERT SKUTCH is cofounder and director of the Foundation for Inner Peace in Mill Valley, California, and publisher of A Course in Miracles. His children' 's book, WHO'S IN A FAMILY?, has sold over 30,000 copies. He has also written for television, radio, and the stage. He lives in Northern California.
San Francisco Bay Area artist LAURA NIENHAUS posed her family and friends for the rich colored pencil and watercolor illustrations.


K-Gr 2‘Simple declarative statements move readers from one family configuration to the next, from single children to single parents to same-sex couples. Here and there animal families are juxtaposed with the human, presumably to show that certain situations are natural. For instance, one double-page spread shows a grandmother caring for her two grandsons while their mother is at work. The following page explains that the eldest female is also in charge in elephant families. While this may reassure some youngsters, it could also very well produce more questions than answers. Richly colored although somewhat two-dimensional pencil illustrations show loving families of a variety of races and colors in action. A serviceable, albeit surface, title.‘Martha Topol, Northwestern Michigan College, Traverse City, MI

Beginning with a traditional nuclear family and ending with blank spaces in which the child reader is instructed to ``draw a picture of your family,'' this slight book catalogues multicultural contemporary family units, including those with single parents, lesbian and gay parents, mixed-race couples, grandparents and divorced parents. Kevin and his brother like their kimono-clad grandmother to help them with their jigsaw puzzles, while Ricky lives with two families. ``Aunt Amanda and Uncle Stan,'' pictured riding in a blue convertible with their pets, ``don't have any children at all'' but are ``still a family,'' says the narrator, because ``they say Mouser and Fred are their `babies.'" Because ``animals have families, too,'' the text describes elephant, lion, chimpanzee and dog families as well as human families. (A human family headed by a mother is ``like the chimpanzee family. Mama chimp raises the babies by herself, with the help of any older children she may have.'') Nienhaus's lackluster illustrations, the schoolmarmish tone of the text and the comparisons with wild animals all tend to undercut the final definition of a family as ``the people who love you the most!'' Ages 3-7. (Mar.)

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