Leslea Newman has been known in gay and lesbian circles for a long, long time. She took the monumental risk of writing Heather Has Two Mommies more than a couple of decades ago and at least within the circles I walk in, her writing is familiar and worthy. Think back to 1989: if you were alive back then, do you remember reading many books with gays or lesbians as primary characters? Or shock of all shocks, a picture book with a main character who has two moms? No. Other than Annie on my Mind, not much rises from my mental Roladex. In fact, I recall scouring the stacks of the public library in the late '80's, searching for books that might help me make sense of my confusing lesbian life. Sure, I lived in Hollywood and then San Francisco where gays and lesbians were more commonly found but I have to tell you, the places they/ we were "found" were mostly dark windowless bars and heavy emotional closets that we carried around. Leslea Newman was an enormous risk taker then and I have worlds of respect for her so when I noticed that she had a new picture book out, I knew I had to read it.
There are two things I love about this book: one, the build up. It all makes perfect sense. Told from a young boy's perspective, one gets pretty clearly the importance of the day and greater the importance of the boy's role in the day. The responsibility the boy carries on this dramatically important day is palpable, and I can imagine a young child owning, absolutely owning this role. I love how she put voice into each page from this boy. I also love the humor at the end. The cover of the book implies a super- positive day, and when two people get married, it is. But this day is special: this day holds the tremendous possibility that that magical day in many of our lives holds, and the boy carries his own joyful possibility into that. No spoiler alert here: you gotta read it to see if you agree with me.
As a lesbian mom in a two-mom family, I well know the challenges our "lifestyle" brings to the table of life. As a consumer of literature, I well know how rare it is to find books that speak to me. As a teacher of teachers within the academic world of literacy, I celebrate when I discover books that feed a hunger. There is a national hunger for positive rituals in our world, and this book lifts up one of them. I encourage you to check out Donovan's Big Day and then let me know what you think. Maybe the Big Day has more to do with us than we believe it does.