Bibliographic Information: Downey, R. (2001). Love is a family. New York, NY: HarperCollins.
Brief Annotation: Lily is nervous for Family Fun Night at school. Her family isn’t like her friend Melissa’s- it’s just Lily and her mom. Lily reluctantly attends Family Fun Night with her mom, and learns that a family isn’t defined by its size, but by the love that holds the family members together.
Genre: Contemporary Realistic Fiction
Grade Level: PreK-4
Readers who will like this: Readers who are children of single parents; readers who are interested in family dynamics; readers who enjoy stories with messages of acceptance.
Rating/Response: 4.5; There are so many positive aspects of this book. Lily is a relatable and believable character, and her relationship with her mother is both loving and conflicted. Lily’s fears are expressed and resolved respectfully. The families portrayed at Family Fun Night include other single mothers, single fathers, children with stepparents, children who have been adopted, and children who live with grandparents, hitting a wide variety of family structures. The closing message is lovely and heartfelt. The only thing I would change about this book would be to correct the glaring omission of a family with LGBT parents.
One question you would ask before a read aloud: No two families are exactly the same. What do you think makes a family a family?
Reading Strategy: Quickwrites (Yopp & Yopp, p. 51-52)
In a quickwrite, students are given a prompt before a read aloud or lecture, and asked two write their response to the prompt in a journal or on a piece of paper. This introduces students to the topic about to be discussed. It can also serve as a form of pre- or formative assessment for the teacher. A quickwrite would work well for Love is a Family, as the students could record their definitions about what makes a family prior to and after reading or being read the text. This could help students identify ways in which they did or didn’t change.