Review Blog

Apr 14 2020

Isla's family tree by Katrina McKelvey and Prue Pittock

cover image

EK Books, 2020. ISBN: 9781925820379. 32pp., hbk.
Isla's family is about to grow and she is not happy. "This family is full", she declares.
So her mother sits her down and explains how families are like trees - they have a trunk that is formed by the grandparents, branches formed by their children and then the leaves are the children of those children like Isla and her cousins. Isla begins to understand but when she learns that her mum is to have two babies, then there is no room for any more leaves on her branch and the family is definitely full.
The prospect of a new baby entering an already tight-knit family is very common and can be very confronting to a child who is used to being the only one, so this approach to explaining the upcoming event is one that will appeal to many parents. Promoting it with your parent community would be a great way to promote the school library's relationship with that community.
However it would also have a valuable place in the early childhood classroom as children investigate their families and their structure. Not all of Isla's family have the traditional formation of mother, father and children so there is scope for each child to make their own tree and show and share that families can have all sorts of shapes, just as trees and their leaves do, perhaps bringing comfort to those who might see themselves as being different.
Investigating their own origins is always a surefire winner with young children because it deeply connects to their own lives and there are as many branches to explore as there are in the family tree. The concepts of birthdays, naming, physical appearance and genetics, development and maturation, vocabulary building . . . the list is almost endless with lots of other stories that can be shared as well. There are teachers' notes available.
It also helps children understand that their trepidation when faced with the same sort of news and change is normal, that sometimes we have to change a little ourselves so we can adapt to that change but that's what people do and it can help us grow too.
Another example of how what appears to be a simple picture book for young readers can open up a world of possibilities.
Barbara Braxton

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