Still a Family
By Brenda Reeves Sturgis
Illustrated by Jo-Shin Lee
Publisher: Albert Whitman
A little girl and her parents have lost their home and must live in a homeless shelter. Even worse, due to a common shelter policy, her dad must live in a men’s shelter, separated from her and her mom. Despite these circumstances, the family still finds time to be together. They meet at the park to play hide-and-seek, slide on slides, and pet puppies. While the young girl wishes for better days when her family is together again under a roof of their very own, she continues to remind herself that they’re still a family even in times of separation.
"A sensitive and necessary picture book to provide comfort and raise awareness and empathy." —Kirkus Reviews
"A girl with brown braids keeps her chin up while living in a shelter with her mother. “My dad lives in a different shelter, down another street,” she explains, adding (in what becomes the book’s refrain), “But we are still a family.” Sturgis (The Lake Where Loon Lives) doesn’t ignore the girl’s desires for stability and a permanent home (“I miss my quiet room, my comfy bed, and my cozy quilt”) but shows how the family members support each other, exchanging modest gifts, waiting together in long soup kitchen lines, and celebrating the girl’s birthday with a cupcake and a wish. Lee, in her U.S. debut, uses a mix of media to create rough, childlike scenes that give the sense that the girl is both telling and illustrating her story. With an estimated 2.5 million children homeless in the U.S., this is an empathic and valuable book, both for families without a home and for those in a position to help; an author’s note and list of resources offers suggestions for how readers can do just that."—Publishers Weekly
"Families are bound together by love, even when circumstances force them to live apart, affirms the young narrator of this story about a family struggling to rebuild their lives. The little girl matter-of-factly relates the challenges of being homeless, among them waiting in line at a soup kitchen, wearing too-small shoes, and not being able to live with both her parents. The biracial preschooler (her mother is brown-skinned, while her father has a light complexion) wishes her father didn’t have to sleep separately at a shelter for men but knows that they are “still a family.” The emphasis throughout is on the many ways the members of this family manage to find joy and comfort in one another, putting a human face on their plight. The family are portrayed with dignity and respect, as active agents rather than passive victims. In keeping with the first-person narration, Lee’s illustrations evoke a child’s crayon and watercolor drawings. Young readers who have not experienced homelessness will need an adult to help answer the many questions that arise, while those who have will find comfort in this gentle story. Pair with Lois Brandt’s Maddi’s Fridge and Matt de la Peña’s Last Stop on Market Street. VERDICT This discussion starter offers a child’s perspective on homelessness and a positive message of hope."—School Library Journal
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