Family forest by Kim Kane and Lucia Masciullo

cover image

Hardie Grant Egmont, 2010. ISBN 9781921564703.
Family forest has been nominated for the CBCA Picture Book of the Year Awards for 2011 and it truly fits this year's Children's Book Week theme of 'One world, many stories.'
Its dedication to the author's 'pre-cooked' and 'home-baked' children gives an indication of its theme of blended families, step-sisters and brothers, step-dads and mums and all the connotations that children find themselves living in today. Through its hilarious illustrations, it explores what is meant by terms like 'half-sister', and step-mum (and she's not an evil witch as the fairytales portray), and shows that whatever its configuration, a family is just a group of people with very special bonds built on love. The connections are more than biological birth details. Instead of having a family tree, this little girl is lucky enough to have a family forest!
As teachers of our time, we know that traditional topics like 'Who's in your family?', Mother's Day and Father's Day, and 'Construct your family tree' have to be undertaken with a certain sensitivity because, despite what some would want us to believe, the notion of a family being a mother, father and their offspring is not the reality for many of our students.' This beautiful book offers an opportunity for the children to explore all the different structures that can constitute a family and that their particular situation, while special, is not unique.' It opens the door for discussions about circumstances that might help them feel a part of the group rather than isolated from it.' It also allows those who are in a 'traditional' environment to understand that there are all sorts of arrangements that can be called a family and that just because a mummy and daddy don't love each other, it doesn't mean they don't love their children.
This is a true example of a picture book - the text and illustrations are so closely and beautifully interwoven that neither can stand alone as richly without the other, rather like family members.' The text is simple, but with a strong message brought to life by the humorous pencil and watercolour pictures.
While its initial appeal is the younger market, it is often the older primary student who is starting to examine, compare and question what is beyond their immediate situation and so this book has an important place in the collection.
Barbara Braxton