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Unusual Families

Today many families don't fit the traditional image of mum, dad and a couple of children. Some start off with no resident dad, others develop into single parent families after divorce and many involve a complex mix of stepchildren and stepparents. But living in a family that's splitting up or reforming can be stressful and the traditional image of stepmothers in fairy tales definitely doesn't help. Here are some books that present a more positive picture as well as giving children a chance to voice their fears.

Mum and Dad Glue
by Kes Gray, illustrated by Lee Wildish
(Hodder)
A little boy explains to readers that he must find some glue to stick his mum and dad back together because they are breaking up. Despite their assurances that he’s not to blame and that they both still love him, he’s not convinced and is determined to find that special pot of glue that can ‘make them last’. However, the kindly shop-keeper explains that he can look beyond his parents break up and accept that there are some things that just cannot be fixed; the only thing to do is try to move on.
   A poignant child’s eye view of parental break up to share with young children who may be in similar situations to the child narrator, and for reading aloud in schools.
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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Every Second Friday
by Kiri Lightfoot and Ben Galbraith
(Hodder)
Narrated by a girl, this picture book tells of the fortnightly visits to Dad’s house she and her brother, Totty, make. Their Dad collects bits and bobs - seemingly everything has potential and even if Dad doesn’t find an immediate use for it, the children certainly will, once they’ve found him in amongst all the mess that is. After that, there are no limits to their flights of fancy. They can be pirates sailing forth for instance, or holding a tea party, then perhaps, musicians and dancers. Best of all though, are Dad’s collections of photos and drawings, those special things that remind him of the children when they aren’t there and show just how much his home belongs to them too.
  Humour can sometimes be a good way to deal with difficult situations and here, the amusingly-told story and wacky illustrations make for a reassuring book for sharing and talking about.
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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My Stepfamily
by Rosemary Stones
(Happy Cat)
Kim likes her mum's new boyfriend, Tim, but she's not so keen on his daughter, Clare. When Tim moves in, she finds it difficult changing from being an only child to a big sister, especially as Clare is unhappy and insecure herself. But the situation gradually improves and, when Clare is teased by some older girls, Kim finds herself coming to the rescue like a real big sister. This picture book looks at both the minus and plus side of becoming a stepfamily so is a good starting point for talking to children.
Ages - up to 10
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Children don't divorce
by Rosemary Stones
(Happy Cat)
This book is told through the eyes of a small girl who lives happily with her mum, dad and younger brother until her parents split up when she's six. It deals sensitively with her distress and anger, her reluctance to tell her friends and her wish to keep in touch with both Mum and Dad. In addition, it looks at her anxiety when Mum finds a boyfriend and her realisation that this means her dream of her parents getting back together is never likely to happen. Reassuringly, the book ends with the statement that "Even if they don't live together, your mum and dad will always be your mum and dad."
Ages - up to 10
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Two Homes
by Claire Masurel and Kady MacDonald Denton
(Walker Books)
Alex's mum and dad live apart so he has two homes. That means he has two front doors, two bedrooms and two favourite chairs. But his friends come to play with him at both homes and his mum and dad love him wherever he is. A reassuring book for small children in a split family situation.
Ages - up to 6
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