By Danielle Galvin
These days, Australian families look very different from the traditional, nuclear family unit of decades gone by.
That’s partly why author Tenielle Stoltenkamp felt it was time to do justice, in the form of a children’s book, to the diverse, blended, co-parenting, single parent families and others who may not always be depicted in the pages of kids books.
Growing up, she was an only child with a single mum, with half siblings and step families.
Her new book, ‘My Family Doesn’t Look Like Your Family’, depicts a more modern, changing world where families differ greatly.
“The reaction has been mostly positive. We’ve had so many people say ‘finally – this is my story’ or ‘this is the book my family has been looking for’,” she said.“Other people may feel challenged by the notion that we’re looking beyond just ‘traditional’ families in this book. This isn’t the case at all.
“We’re celebrating and depicting all families and embracing the reality that every family is a little different, but we are ultimately one big family after all.”
Stoltenkamp hopes the messaging in ‘My Family Doesn’t Look Like Your Family’ is clear to young readers.
“Our aim is for every child to see their own family on the pages of this book and to know that – even though every family looks and does things differently – we all have a place we belong.”
It’s this sense of belonging that’s an important thread in the book.
Children are often very accepting by their nature, but may have questions about the make-up of a family that looks completely different to their own.
“How we, as adults, respond to these questions can shape their view on diversity,” Stoltenkamp said.
“Whatever the makeup of a family unit, diversity is something we can all embrace and celebrate.”
Talented artist and illustrator Go Suga is behind the breathtaking imagery in the book.
He wanted to bring it to life as well as breaking down the status quo of the traditional family structure.
Stoltenkamp said the style of the illustrations was incredibly important to complement the narrative.
“It was a tough brief for an illustrator – we were basically asking them to avoid as many stereotypes as possible, remove elements of race and gender, and ensure the counting element of the book was clear,” she said.
“Go’s unique aesthetic was perfect for the complexity of the task and his personal ethos and passion aligned with the vision of the book.
“Our goal was for every child to see themselves and their family represented on the pages of the book.”
Stoltenkamp’s vision is that the book will be read as a family, or even in classrooms across the country.
“I like to imagine kids connecting over the similarities and shared interests between families, or learning about unique traditions and cultures together.”
‘My Family Doesn’t Look Like Your Family’ is available at www.myfamily-thebook.com