Jenna and Lucy have combined their talents and interests in creating a book that celebrates families in all shapes and styles! They have kindly put together a brilliant blog for us to share!
How the animal kingdom inspired a story about the different families there are in the world:
We Are Family celebrates the diverse ways that young grow up on our planet, and the journey we all take to find our unique place in the world. The process of researching it has been a humbling and remarkable voyage of discovery for author Lucy Reynolds and illustrator Jenna Herman, who have learned so much about the remarkable ways in which baby animals adapt, survive and thrive.
The idea for the book grew unexpectedly after Lucy received a Christmas card, shortly before her son’s first birthday, depicting a lone polar bear mother leading its cub through the snow. This image offered such a powerful moment of connection that the seed for the story was planted: ‘as a newly separated, first time mum, I was profoundly moved by that image of maternal solitude and resilience. It touched me deeply and made me suddenly feel that I wasn’t alone – that if a polar bear mother could do this, then so could I, even though it sometimes felt like an impossibly difficult journey’.
Jenna identified with the complexities of childhood too, having grown up in a single parent family and experienced various types of loss as a child, including parental divorce and grief: ‘it felt important not to ignore these common experiences but to address them in a sensitive and thoughtful manner’.
As the idea for the book began to evolve, Jenna and Lucy began to explore the potential for a story that enabled children everywhere to feel seen and reflected: ‘We loved the idea of using the animal kingdom to communicate empathy for all different kinds of families. And we also liked the opportunity this gave us to explore families almost incidentally – the main focus of the book is the remarkable animals that are introduced, and children are above all fascinated by their incredible, unique behaviours’.
We Are Family is fun, entertaining and colourful. But it has also been created to help children to identify with their own experiences – and to empathise with others: ‘By introducing these themes through the animal kingdom, we were able to draw on the vast diversity of the natural world in terms of the different parental configurations that are so abundant in nature, but also the varied emotional and developmental nuances that are reflected through different experiences of growing up across the wild’.
The natural world can hold challenges too, and this has been key to Lucy and Jenna’s approach: ‘We took a very conscious decision to reflect some of the more complex aspects of family life as well as the easier, ‘fluffier’ elements of being a baby animal. Themes such as bereavement, abandonment, conflict, competition and rejection are touched upon and are all close to our own hearts. But we have worked hard to handle them with delicacy and care. In creating our book, we worked closely with Beth Cox, a fantastic specialist sensitivity and inclusivity advisor and co-founder of Inclusive Minds. This helped us to carefully craft our message for little readers everywhere, who may be experiencing a vast range of different situations, and to introduce it in a subtle but reaffirming way’.
Lucy and Jenna also hope their book will inspire children to be curious about the animal kingdom and to discover more – both about the animals they meet within the book, and about other species that may most closely reflect their own situation: ‘We want to encourage stewardship of the natural world, and have woven through a delicate narrative around conservation and species survival. So many of the animals in the book are facing habitat destruction and possible extinction at the hands of humankind. Our hope is that our book will inspire children to understand their own unique potential – both to be themselves, and to help these creatures to keep on surviving on this wild, wonderful planet that we share’.
Lucy Reynolds & Jenna Herman
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