Book Reviews: Papa, Daddy, & Riley and Who’s Your Real Mom?

The Diverse BookFinder is a collection of children’s picture books featuring diverse story lines and characters. It is a comprehensive list, not necessarily a “must read” list. While it focuses on Indigenous people and People of Color, it does include lists of stories about LGBTQ characters.

Two books on this list stood out to me. While they asked the same central question, “Who is your real dad?” and “Who is your real mom?” each book approached the answer in completely different ways, ultimately coming to the same conclusion.

Papa, Daddy, & Riley
By Seamus Kirst
Illustrations by Devon Holzwarth
Published by Magination Press
May 5, 2020

Papa, Daddy, & Riley by Seamus Kirst is about a little girl named Riley who has two dads. She gets dropped off at school one day and a friend later asks her, “Who is your real Dad?” Riley responds right away that they are both her dads. Her friend pushes the matter and explains naively that it takes one mom and one dad to make a baby, and therefore only one of her dads must be her real dad.

Riley struggles all day to pick just one dad to be her real dad. She compares the things that she loves with the things that both her Papa and Daddy love, but still can’t decide. When they come to pick her up from school Riley is visibly upset. Both dads explain that love makes a family and all families are different.

The story is straightforward and sweet, and the illustrations are lovely. This book also includes main characters and supporting characters that are people of color. Here is an interview with the author from StoryMakers: StoryMakers with Seamus Kirst PAPA DADDY and RILEY

Who’s Your Real Mom?
By Bernadette Green
Illustrations by Anna Zobel
Published by Scribe US
June 2, 2020

Who’s Your Real Mom by Bernadette Green is about a little girl named Elvi who has two moms. Her friend, Nicholas, visits the house and wants to know which one is her real mom. She explains that they are both her moms.

Nicholas persists, that “only the one that had you in their tummy” could be her real mom. Unlike in “Papa, Daddy, & Riley” where the author takes a straightforward approach, Elvi has a wonderfully fantastical take on which is her real mom. Her real mom is a pirate in disguise, speaks fluent gorilla, teachers spiders the art of the web, tucks her into bed and more.

This story is whimsical and explains how both of Elvi’s moms are her real mom without explaining it at all. I appreciated this approach, and the dynamic illustrations that accompanied the text. Who’s Your Real Mom? also includes main characters who are people of color.

Both of these diverse books would be welcome additions to my library.


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