Among the many genres and subgenres of informational books for children are those about the people around us. One niche in this category are books about families. Most bookstores or libraries will stock several of these titles. Some explore families worldwide (beware the title that compartmentalizes race, ethnicity, and religion to geography - especially making America a White land) others look at families here in the United States. Most authors and photographers do a good job of showing the wide range of families (big families, small families, adoptive families, interracial families, gay and lesbian parents, divorced families) however the writing style tends to use overarching and general language. One exception to this trend is Susan Kuklin’s Families.
Kuklin, Susan. Families. Hypersion, 2006, 36 pages ISBN 978-0786808229 op
Kuklin interviewed several children between the ages of four and fourteen to learn more about their families. Fifteen families are featured - each on a two page spread. The children selected clothing, household items, and pose for their family photos. Each child picked a historic family photo they referenced in their conversations. These images are inset with accompanying text to deepen our understanding of the family's history. This approach to crafting a book about American families creates a text that is wholly unique. We hear the child’s view on their own families. While all of these families live in the United Stated they represent the reality of a global society. The assortment of families we find in this type of book are all here but with a depth and breadth unparalleled by other titles. Kuklin has captured the voice of children introducing the multitude of possible families. The availability of this notable project is now limited due to it being out of print.
Some questions that come to mind: Hyperion, can you bring it back? If the pictures and cultural references are outdated, creating barriers to reprinting, maybe a second edition is in order?
JEHANGIR: My family’s from India. People think we’re Hindu because most of India is Hindu. I’m Muslim. The things I do are mostly Muslim. But the things I eat and wear are usually from Indian culture.
Cover image, photograph, and excerpt from the author’s website. To see more photos and excerpts from Families visit http://www.susankuklin.net/childrens-books/families/
- Ernie Cox