Thursday, January 10, 2013

It's Elementary: In Our Mothers' House

It's been a while since I've written a review of a children's picture book!  What I have chosen to talk about today is interesting on many levels.  It's by a Michigan author.  And it's been challenged and banned in several school libraries in various places across the country.  That always makes for an attention-getting topic.

Let me tell you about In Our Mothers' House by Patricia Polacco, and why it's caused a fuss.

Checkouts: Not owned by charter school library; own, but not yet checked out at the public/school library
Typical reader: People interested in banned books; fans of Ms. Polacco's works; families that are different
Source: I read it while I was cataloging it at the public/school library.  I admit that I've polished off a few picture books that way, while waiting for files to load or whatnot.  Guilty as charged!

Synopsis: Two women adopt three children and raise them in what seems to the children to be a perfectly normal, happy household.  Some neighbors don't accept them for some reason, but in this house, different does not mean wrong.

My Goodreads rating: 4 stars

This is a pleasant story about a family that adopts three ethnically diverse children and raises them in a warm, fun, loving home.  It follows the family from when the first daughter (the narrator) is adopted, through to the mothers' passing and how the son's family now lives in the house.  It's a very feel-good tale.

The real world, before and after the book, has not been so kind.  Ms. Polacco wrote this book after visiting a class and being inspired by the children she met.  That might sound sweet, but this story was pretty reactionary.  The children in the class she was visiting was reading essays to her, about their families.  One girl got up to read her essay, but was immediately asked by an aide to sit down.

"No don't come from a real family...sit down!" said the aide.

The girl came from a family of two mothers and two adopted siblings.

Ms. Polacco went back to her hotel room and wrote In Our Mothers' House that night.  (The account is taken from a guest post by Ms. Polacco on the American Civil Liberties Union's "Blog of Rights."  Read the full article here.)

There are apparently plenty of people who feel the same way the aide does.  The book has been pulled from library shelves in Texas and Utah.  The Davis School District in Utah kept the book behind the circulation counter and required parental permission for checkout; there has been a news-making lawsuit filed against the school district.  Parents there had complained that the book normalizes a lifestyle that they don't agree with.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and parents have every right to say what their underage children can and cannot read.  But they should not infringe upon others' rights to read what they please.  The librarians in the district had bought the book for the collection because there are students that come from homes with two mommies or two daddies.  Yet the community continues to treat the children as if they do not have the right to feel normal or happy.

Does your local library offer books to make everyone feel like they are a welcome part of society?  Or do you have a tale of a locally banned book, that could have possibly helped someone feel better about themselves?

Don't forget to enter my drawing for a $25 Biblio gift card!  You'll find the entry form here.  The giveaway ends January 31.


  1. I had no idea Patricia Polacco was from Michigan. Very cool. I've picked up one or two of hers when I felt like reading something younger and have always enjoyed them. I'll have to give this one a try next time!

    1. It's true! She was born in Lansing and lives in Union City. :)