A book that shows diversity

Not all families look the same. 

And yet, in children’s literature families are illustrated relatively rarely with diversity in mind. 

Mothers, fathers, grandparents and children tend to be uniformly white or portrayed as animals. 

When looking through the inventory at a bookstore, Minnesota native Norah Barrett Cooper and her husband, Randolph, who was born in Liberia, were disappointed (and surprised) that they couldn’t find any books depicting a multiracial family like theirs. 

A saleswoman, when asked, found a couple books that included children with brown skin. 

“Then I asked for families that looked more like ours,” Barrett Cooper said. “The woman blushed. She sent us to the ‘special families’ section of the store, a tiny bookshelf with books about kids that in one way or another were considered not ‘normal’ but ‘special.’” 

After studying the books, they soon saw that there were, in fact, no books that fit the bill. They left empty handed — and greatly disheartened. 

Even when they searched online, few stories reflected their family of four. And those that did were more focused on racial issues, rather than every-day activities. 

And so Loving Lion Books of Minneapolis was born, along with the company’s first release, Love Family, which tells the universal story of a large family get-together, including the waiting, playing, laughing and closeness that can ensue, all told through the eyes of a young girl. 

What’s more? 

Love Family — illustrated by the company’s co-founder Joelle Nelson, a Minneapolis mother of two — is customizable. When ordering, families can choose different skin and hair colors and different faces for the grandmother, mother, father and daughter with four choices for each character.

Barrett Cooper said the company plans to create more books with even more diversity, including same-sex parents, and characters with hijabs, chunnis, turbans, patkas and kippahs, so that all children can see themselves and their families in stories about everyday life.  

Learn more at lovinglionbooks.com.