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In Our Mothers' House Hardcover – April 30, 2009

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 6 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: 1 - 3
  • Lexile Measure: 750L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 48 pages
  • Publisher: Philomel; First Edition first Printing edition (April 30, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 039925076X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399250767
  • Product Dimensions: 11.2 x 8.8 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #33,826 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 1–4—This gem of a book illustrates how love makes a family, even if it's not a traditional one. The narrator, a black girl, describes how her two Caucasian mothers, Marmee and Meema, adopted her, her Asian brother, and her red-headed sister. She tells about the wonderful times they have growing up in Berkeley, CA. With their large extended family and friends, they celebrate Halloween with homemade costumes, build a tree house, organize a neighborhood block party, and host a mother-daughter tea party. The narrator continually reinforces the affectionate feelings among her mothers and siblings, and the illustrations depict numerous scenes of smiling people having a grand time. Most of the neighbors are supportive, except for one woman who tells Marmee and Meema, "I don't appreciate what you two are." Eventually, the children grow up, marry heterosexual spouses, and return home to visit their aged parents with their own children. Is this an idealized vision of a how a gay couple can be accepted by their family and community? Absolutely. But the story serves as a model of inclusiveness for children who have same-sex parents, as well as for children who may have questions about a "different" family in their neighborhood. A lovely book that can help youngsters better understand their world.—Martha Simpson, Stratford Library Association, CT
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

The oldest of three adopted children recalls her childhood with mothers Marmee and Meema, as they raised their African American daughter, Asian American son, and Caucasian daughter in a lively, supportive neighborhood. Filled with recollections of family holidays, rituals, and special moments, each memory reveals loving insight. At a school mother-daughter tea, for instance, the mothers make their first ever appearance in dresses. The narrator recalls, “My heart still skips a beat when I think of the two of them trying so hard to please us.” Only a crabby neighbor keeps her children away from their family. Meema explains, “She’s afraid of what she cannot understand: she doesn’t understand us.” The energetic illustrations in pencil and marker, though perhaps not as well-rendered as in some previous works, teem with family activities and neighborhood festivity. Quieter moments radiate the love the mothers feel for their children and for each other. Similar in spirit to the author’s Chicken Sunday, this portrait of a loving family celebrates differences, too. Pair this with Arnold Adoff’s Black Is Brown Is Tan (2002), Toyomi Igus’ Two Mrs. Gibsons (1996), or Natasha Wing’s Jalapeno Bagels (1996) for portraits of family diversity. Grades 1-4. --Linda Perkins

More About the Author

Born Patricia Ann Barber in Lansing, Michigan, to parents of Russian and Ukrainian descent on one side and Irish on the other, Patricia Polacco grew up in both California and Michigan. Her school year was spent in Oakland, California, and summers in her beloved Michigan. She describes her family members as marvelous storytellers. "My fondest memories are of sitting around a stove or open fire, eating apples and popping corn while listening to the old ones tell glorious stories about their homeland and the past. We are tenacious traditionalists and sentimentalists.... With each retelling our stories gain a little more Umph!"Studying in the United States and Australia, Patricia Polacco has earned an M.F.A. and a Ph. D. in art history, specializing in Russian and Greek painting, and iconographic history. She is a museum consultant on the restoration of icons. As a participant in many citizen exchange programs for writers and illustrators, Patricia Polacco has traveled extensively in Russia as well as other former Soviet republics. She continues to support programs that encourage Russo-American friendships and understanding. She is also deeply involved in inner-city projects here in the U.S. that promote the peaceful resolution of conflict and encourage art and literacy programs.The mother of a grown son and a daughter, Patricia Polacco currently resides in Michigan, where she has a glorious old farm that was built during the time of Lincoln.

Customer Reviews

Great book for all children and adults.
Michael N. Wilson
One family on their block won't accept them - but their house is filled with love and gentle teachings in this wonderful story of a different family.
Midwest Book Review
Patricia Polacco's story reminds it's readers that all families should be celebrated.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By PRD on December 23, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I'm reading the 1 star comments and laughing. Yes, if you think children should not know about gay families (or adoptive families, or families with more than 1 child, or families who celebrate Halloween, etc, etc, etc...all things that DO happen in our world regardless of whether you agree with it), you won't like this. *I*, however, thought it was a good book. Really, the facts that the children are adopted and that the parents are both mothers are REALLY NOT FOCUSED ON. They just happen to be a 2-mom family, the kids just happen to be adopted. It's really the equivalent of a book about a mom-dad family where there isn't a lot of discussion about WHO makes up the couple, but that information is part of the background. The conflict with the neighbor isn't even the focus of the book. It, too, was a very small sub-story in this book. Goodness, find this from your library, see what I'm talking about, and then buy it if you feel inclined to do so. But honestly, as someone who would have been 100% fine if the "difference" WERE the focus of the book, this is just a book about a family. :)
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Petra A. Mertens on December 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The book is wonderful and my absolute favorite among my children's books. Our kids read it often and will always comment on certain aspects that relate to their own stories.
the book touches on many topics: the unconditional love of two mothers for their children, lesbian parenting, adoption, transracial families, homophobia, true family values, loss, and the comfort we find in the traditions that we create.
I have read it so many times - and still my eyes tear up at the end.
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Great Kid Books on November 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Marmee and Meema and their three children fill their lives with the of joy of new puppies, holiday meals and homemade Halloween costumes. They cook together, laugh together, dance together. Their lives are like any other family in their town. And while one of their neighbors doesn't accept them because they are different, Marmee and Meema handle it with gentleness and grace, focusing instead on the support they feel from the rest of their neighborhood.

Patricia Polacco has created a portrait of a loving family here, celebrating their differences while showing the love that all of the family members feel for each other. This certainly can help children see that families with two moms, two dads or adopted children are families full of love; but this book also simply reminds children of the love and safety they feel within their own home.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Eyeconic on February 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover
After the intervention of the ACLU, this wonderful book is back on the shelves in Davis County, Utah ( [...] ). Yet I am saddened that some people continue to view diversity as some sort of threat.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Barb Mechalke VINE VOICE on May 14, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Patricia Polacco has many wonderful books to her credit, this one is no exception. This is a lovely book showing a family with same sex parents who adopt three children, the oldest child has dark skin, the second child is of Asian descent and the third baby is a red head.

The oldest child narrates as she recalls what it was like growing up within the love and comfort of her family's home. She describes the differences in her mothers' parenting styles and personalities. She remembers the way their house was alive with music, the fun they would have dancing together and how the children loved sliding down the banister. She recalls memorable moments growing up; the time her little sister drew all over the living room wall, her mothers' making all of their Halloween costumes, getting new puppies and building a tree house in the backyard. She tells about growing up, moving away from home and starting her own family, yet always coming back for holidays, birthdays and important family gatherings like when her grandparents passed away.

This is a wonderful book that shows the love of a family, it shows the differences between individuals in both the way they look, (skinny, plump, brown-skinned, white-skinned, red-haired) and in personality and in talents possessed. It offers parents all kinds of opportunities to talk with their children about the experiences we all share as members of a family as well as how we treat people who are different from us in one way or another.

Books like this help us have meaningful conversations with our children about what we value, how we treat people, and that while we might be different in some ways, that we are really all very much alike.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Randie on May 15, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Polacco, P. (2009). In our mothers' house. New York, NY: Philomel Books.

Genre: Children's Picture Storybook

Polacco stepped aside from her usual books based on personal experiences and heritage to write a book for children and families that she has met in schools, at speaking engagements, etc. In Our Mothers' House is the story of three adopted children and the love and devotion they received from their two mothers in their mothers' house. Polacco's story highlights the love of this family but also showcases some of the challenges and discrimination that "non-traditional" families face.

I particularly enjoyed the scenes in which the mothers sewed the children's homemade Halloween costumes and dresses for a special tea. Despite all the love and support the two mothers offered their children, there was one mother in the neighborhood that was not accepting of their non-traditional family and it is beyond sad that these children had to deal with the hateful confrontation of this cold, bitter woman in such a public manner. Fortunately, Marmee and Meema were loving individuals and they did not let the hateful comments of one person impact the love in their hearts. I admire their strength and respectful response to hatred.

The book follows the three children into their adult lives. Sharing their marriages at their mothers' house, capturing the first steps of their own children at their mothers' house, and coming together for family events/gatherings after their mothers have passed...this story is remarkably touching and brought tears to my eyes.

Beautiful, beautiful story of unconditional love. Polacco at her finest!
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