review: We Belong Together by Todd Parr
We Belong Together written and illustrated by Todd Parr. Little, Brown, 2007 (978-0-316-01668-1) $15.99
You can always count on Todd Parr books to show colorful families--blue, yellow and purple people especially. His bright primary colors, childlike chunky shapes and warm, positive messages always make for an appealing book. But perhaps because it tackles a more complex subject, I find this one falls just a tiny bit short.
The text follows a very readable format that combines repetition and variety. "We belong together because..." begins each segment, all of which depict a different adoptive family. The first section shows a child wishing for something, the second, adults with help to give, the third, a family sharing good times and love together. As always, Parr aims to be inclusive, with several single-parent families, a two-mom family, a two-dad family and a pair of (presumably) grandparents; I also like that older children are depicted, not just babies. None of the families has more than one child though, an odd omission.
Although I appreciate the effort to keep the book upbeat for very young children--even the needy kids are mostly happily holding out their arms, waiting to receive the love that will be along any minute--I felt a little uncomfortable with how the adults were depicted here. The need is always on the child's side: "you needed someone to help you grow strong and healthy," "you wanted to learn," "you needed someone to kiss your boo-boos." The adults simply offer: "I had help to give," "we had lots to teach you," "we had kisses to give." It feels a little one-sided to me, as if the adoptive parents are driven only by their generosity. But perhaps all is redeemed by the poignant end results: "Now we can all hold hands," "Now, we all have someone to make us laugh," "Now, we all have someone to kiss goodnight." Ultimately the meaning is clear: everyone wins when families find each together. (1-5)