Module 15 — Frequently Censored Book

Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman

Module 15– Frequently Censored Book

Bibliography

Newman, L.  (1989, 2000).  Heather Has Two Mommies.  Los Angeles, CA: Alyson Wonderland.

Summary

One of the most censored books of the past twenty years, Heather Has Two Mommies, tells the story of a girl’s first encounter with evidence that her family is different and her realization that there are many types of family and that, like hers, most are formed and held together (in whatever form) through love, kindness, and compassion.   Through text and black and white drawings, the book shows that although children and parents face many challenges, family relationships are resilient and enduring.   The lesbianism of Heather’s two parents is of course the reason for both the censorship and notoriety of this book, which celebrates diversity and the enduring power of family ties.

My Impressions

Though certainly not the most creative or compelling children’s book, Heather Has Two Mommies has, through its many censorship challenges and the consistent derision of its title in certain circles, achieved a place in American culture that is totally out of proportion to the quality of its actual content.  It is a nice story, however, and after adjusting to the strangeness of its images I found the book enjoyable and pleasant.  I had never read this book although I’ve flipped through its pages several times and heard it referred to countless times.  It’s a pretty good book that will hold a place in American culture due to its importance in the fights against censorship and for gay rights.

Reviews

[Review of Heather Has Two Mommies, by L. Newman]. (2005, Jan). Book Links, 14, 31.

K-Gr. 1. Heather feels left out because she doesn’t have a daddy; instead, she has two mommies. Then Heather’s preschool teacher asks the children to draw pictures of the people in their families, and Heather realizes that families are defined by the common fact that family members love one another. Although the message is one of appreciation of diversity, the more distant third-person narration and black-and-white illustrations make this less engaging than other picture books…

[Review of Heather Has Two Mommies, by L. Newman]. (2000, July 24). Publishers Weekly, 247, 30.

Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman, illus. by Diana Souza, the picture book about a family that consists of a lesbian couple and their daughter, is celebrating its 10th anniversary with a revised edition in hardcover and paperback. The new edition went on sale last month and includes revised text in which the original artificial-insemination subject matter–partially the source of controversy surrounding the book–has been removed at the request of the author. The first title published by Alyson Wonderland, an imprint of Alyson Publications, Heather Has Two Mommies has sold over 35,000 copies.

Using in the Library

Before reading the book or telling its title, display pictures from the book and then ask for an explanation of the story and its themes.  For grades four or higher, have students write a review of the book based only on the selected images.  Then, after reading the book, students write another review and compare and contrast the different versions. Reviews may be posted on a blog or in the library catalog.

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About Boyd Waltman

Boyd Waltman is a film editor in Houston, Texas.
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