Catherine and Laurence Anholt's Big Book of Families

Book review by
Karyn Wellhousen, Common Sense Media
Catherine and Laurence Anholt's Big Book of Families Book Poster Image
Reassurance that each family is unique, special.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that families are the theme of this set of poems that vary from lighthearted to zany. Illustrations show appealing cartoonlike characters with a great variety in backgrounds.

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What's the story?

Families consist of grandparents, cousins, and great-great uncles, or simply a mother and child. No matter what the family makeup, there will be a poem and illustration in this collection that poignantly expresses how they feel about one another. Every page provides reassurance that each family is unique and special.


Is it any good?

Shouting, laughing, singing, fighting, and hugging: These are all words used by the Anholts to describe what families do best in these engaging poems. We are reassured that at times, everyone experiences similar intense positive and negative emotions about their family. The authors describe this range of emotions as "a family yo-yo," a graphic analogy that children can easily understand.

Each of the 31 rhyming poems is cleverly illustrated. The pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations feature cartoonlike characters. Interest is heightened by the original placement of the text: For example, a single poem is centered on a page with a wide, colorfully detailed border, while the facing page displays three separate poems sparingly illustrated. This mix is very effective for holding the attention of a young audience.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about their own family. Which poems resonate with you? Talk about metaphors and similes using examples in these poems, and come up with some of your own to describe relationships in your family.

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