The Great Big Book of Familes, illustrated by Ros Asquith (2010), is a picturebook that straddles the divide between fiction and non-fiction. I couldn't believe this book didn't already exist before I wrote it! I had the idea for it many years ago but thought I could only do it if I could find an artist who felt the same way as I did about how families are shown in children’s books. I really wanted Ros Asquith but didn’t know how she would feel about it. Fortunately Ros understood straightaway what I wanted the book to do. It was a joy to work with her on it and to feel we understood each other. And it does seem to have filled a gap in many countries: it has 18 foreign editions.
Published by Frances Lincoln (2010) Buy from Amazon
and by Dial in the USA
Winner of the Under-7 category of the inaugural School Library Association Information Book Awards 2011.
Shortlisted for the NASEN Awards 2011
Early on in my career I wrote the sixteen books of the Animals in the Wild series and thought that might be it for non-fiction. But recently I developed the idea of the Great Big Books, illustrated by Ros Asquith and published by Janetta Otter Barry Books at Frances Lincoln. We have done Families and Feelings and the Great Big Green Book comes out in 2015. And now we have a two-book contract for more titles in this popular series. Look out for The Great Big Body Book next!
The Great Big Book of Feelings
The Great Big Book of Families
Reviews of the paperback:
This book is another fantastic collaboration, ready to show young readers that they are normal and everything is fine, and you don't need to be like those others who might seem to be 'the real thing.' (You know, the kind of family the governing class have in mind as the only acceptable life form. Which always makes me wonder what's wrong with single people.)
This is a great book to get the whole family talking and thinking about diversity. It’s fun (there’s even a spot-the-cat-on-every-page game), it’s educational, and most of all it’s real. Perfect for school or home, it’s a lovely book full of children who are modern day children, none of whom at the least beat synthetic.
Families have changed dramatically, but you might not know it from picture books. Hoffman and Asquith have brought the notion of families into the 21st century. This book explores the various aspects of families, including who might be in the family (even pets), where they live and work, how they go to school, what they celebrate, and even how emotions are expressed. Each two-page spread examines an aspect in brief text and bright watercolor illustrations, with smaller pictures related to the topic parading around the pages. Families are multi-racial, single parent, and having two dads or moms. Dads may cook and homeschool children while moms work, and some families even struggle with joblessness and homelessness. And yes, traditional families are shown as well. There’s even a bit of a game, with a cat to be found an each spread. This is an extremely valuable title for all elementary schools to celebrate the diversity of our world. Highly Recommended.
Susan A.M. Poulter, Cataloguing Librarian,
Nashville (Tennessee) Public Library
Library Media Connection
A primer on families in words and pictures. "Once upon a time," Hoffman begins, "most families in books looked like this." Asquith's illustration shows Caucasian daddy, mommy, son, daughter, dog and cat, all smiling and standing in a line. In the background is a neat little house with an apple tree, flowers and a white picket fence in front of it. "But in real life, families come in all sorts of shapes and sizes." Hoffman breaks it down with two-page spreads covering various topics: Who's in Your Family, Homes, School, Jobs, Holidays, Food ("Some moms and dads are great cooks...Others prefer to buy ready-made meals. Most families get their food from shops or markets. But some people grow their own") and more. Each spread is bordered by dozens of small illustrations; the spread on School, for example, features school books, varieties of writing utensils, paper and other items. The book ends with a challenge to try and make a family tree and a gallery of more than a dozen families, in framed pictures. "What's yours like today?" Hoffman asks. The text is packed with examples, and the same goes for Asquith's energetic watercolors. They celebrate diversity, not by proselytizing but by simply presenting it. For the very young, it will seem like a colorful reference book. A sublimely simple idea, brilliantly executed.
The most joyful and inclusive book of the year! A glorious, multicultural celebration of contemporary family life. Includes lesbian/gay parents, single parents, adopted/fostered children and people from different economic backgrounds. All wrapped up in delightful illustrations and great dollops of humour!
With simple language, Hoffman describes almost every imaginable familial configuration, including those with single, same-sex, and foster parents. Asquith expands on the diversity suggested in the text by including mixed-race families and family members with disabilities in her color cartoon illustrations. Hoffman also discusses the differences in jobs, celebrations, clothes, hobbies, and pets found in the various types of homes. As she does so, she alludes to some difficult social issues such as homelessness and unemployment, but suggests that family members help one another through hard times. The artist adds simple clues to make some of these issues accessible to young children. For example, on the page where the parents are unemployed, the child is shown offering a small piggy bank to the concerned mother and father. Although the text is at times serious, the pages are busy and bright, and the format helps the book feel lighthearted and energetic. Todd Parr’s The Family Book (Little, Brown, 2003) covers many of the same basic principles but is written for an even younger audience and uses animals to represent different kinds of families. In this book, children are likely to find representation of their own situations, whatever they may be, and assurance that their family is just right.
Donna Cardon, Provo City Library, UT
School Library Journal
I wrote sixteen titles in the Animals in the Wild series for Belitha.
The huge success of The Great Big Book of Familes encouraged Ros and me to develop one aspect of it into a whole book. It is fairly common to find a children’s book focussing on one emotion but we wanted to explore the whole gamut. Pre-publication in March 2013 it had already scooped up 14 foreign editions.
Published by Frances Lincoln (2012) Buy from Amazon
Published by Dial in the USA (2011)
I almost approached this book out of a sense of duty. You know how some books appear to be so ‘worthy’? I thought that The Great Big Book of Feelings might be one of those. It’s not.
Instead Mary Hoffman and Ros Asquith have come up with something really beautiful. Put simply, it’s a book that describes feelings, and as such I reckon would work quite well for aspie children (perhaps even older people) who need to learn what faces look like for different emotions.
But that’s not why I think it’s so great. It seems so full of life, somehow. (Except for the page about bereavement, which actually had me in tears within seconds. That’s how powerful the combination of Ros’s illustrations and Mary’s words is.)
Right, I will turn the page over and leave the ‘biggest rain cloud ever.’
It’s almost strange that you can get away with a book that just lists feelings, but it seems as if Mary has found every feeling you’d want, and Ros has drawn the loveliest pictures. I know that she always does, but still feel I must point it out.
(Have to admit that the Swedish proverb had me stumped. Perhaps I wasn’t paying attention that day.)
And I have never been scared of knees. Thought you’d want to know…
Spread by spread, this warm-hearted and entertaining picture book explores a whole range of different feelings and emotions that children might experience - from loneliness and fear to silliness and happiness - in both family and school settings. ..... This is a book which could be particularly useful for children who struggle with understanding or dealing with human behaviour and emotions, but also of course has enormous universal appeal.
Like the award-winning The Great Big Book of Families, the lively illustrations in this book represent a true celebration of diversity. As well as being wonderfully ethnically diverse, the inclusive cast features children with wheelchairs and walkers and glasses for visual impairments such as Amblyopia. Asquith’s inclusive approach is casual, convincing and never contrived.
This thoughtful, engaging and inclusive book is ideal for primary schools and libraries, as well as for reading at home.
Happy, Lonely, Interested, Worried, Jealous – in words and pictures this book wittily and sympathetically explores the feelings common to all and some of the reasons for them. With imaginative and seemingly endless variety, Ros Asquith’s illustrations convey how people look while experiencing different emotions while Mary Hoffman’s text provides a thoughtful commentary on the feelings that might lie behind the looks. Perfect for children to absorb on their own, this is also a useful as a spur to discussion.
Julia Eccleshare, LoveReading4Kids
"How are you feeling today?" A difficult question for children to answer - but one that this book will help them to respond to. The book opens with the question: "How are you feeling today?" Each double page looks at one of a range of feelings - there's happy and sad; bored and excited and there is a range within each feeling.The last page is about Feeling Better because sharing and talking about feelings helps us to feel better and it ends the book on a positive note.Lots of different children grace the pages of the book; there are elements of humour - and look out for the cat; how's he feeling? He gives an opportunity for more discussion. Sensitive and thought-provoking.
I loved writing this book, which took my to Egypt and the wonders of the Cairo museum and the temples of the Nile. One day I will go back.
Tiger Belitha/Windward (1983) Buy from Amazon
Monkey Belitha/Windward (1983) Buy from Amazon
Panda Belitha/Windward (1983) Buy from Amazon
Elephant Belitha/Windward (1983) Buy from Amazon
Gorilla Belitha/Windward (1985) Buy from Amazon
Lion Belitha/Windward (1985) Buy from Amazon
Zebra Belitha/Windward (1985) Buy from Amazon
Hippo Belitha/Windward (1985) Buy from Amazon
Snake Belitha/Windward (1986) Buy from Amazon
Bear Belitha/Windward (1986) Buy from Amazon
Wild Cat Belitha/Windward (1986) Buy from Amazon
Giraffe Belitha/Windward (1986) Buy from Amazon
Wild Dog Belitha/Windward (1986) Buy from Amazon
Seal Belitha/Windward (1986) Buy from Amazon
Antelope Belitha/Windward (1986) Buy from Amazon
Bird of Prey Belitha/Windward (1986) Buy from Amazon
> Arising out of The Great Big Books, Welcome to the Family is an exploration of the ways in which children and babies can enter families. And all in ways that ages 4-7 can understand. Welcome to the Family has been shortlisted for the School Library Association (SLA) Information Books award
The Great Big Green Book
> By the inclusion dream team of Mary Hoffman and Ros Asquith … Perhaps Gove should scrap all his education reform and, instead of donating a King James Bible to every school, he could put a set of the Hoffman/Asquith books in every school library. He could change the world.’ - 9th July Rhino Reads
> This chatty, informative book covers all the bases—and then some—in its survey of how families are made. Friendly cartoon illustrations highlight various permutations, from families formed by birth and adoption to foster and blended families. Same-sex and single parents are represented in the art and text; mixed-race families are depicted in the illustrations. After a very brief and age-appropriate explanation of reproduction (“You need two cells to make a baby—one from a man and one from a woman”), the discussion touches on in vitro fertilization and—somewhat misleadingly—sperm donation (“when there are two mommies”) and surrogacy (“when there are two daddies”). ...The tone throughout is light and straightforward, though Hoffman acknowledges that things don’t always “go smoothly” in families. A little teddy bear appears on most spreads, adding its own commentary (“Two moms. I never had one”) or clarifying information. The final page offers this discussion starter: “How did you come into YOUR family?” Nine kids (and one teddy) chime in with speech-bubble answers: “I’ve got two daddies”; “My foster dad was adopted”; “Me and my brothers ALL started in a glass dish.”... this is a useful and accessible treatment.
The Horn Book USA
> selected by Marilyn Brocklehurst as a Bookseller Choice for September - describes all combinations of families in different circumstances, offering lots of points for discussion. Asquith's exuberant illustrations add life to this entertaining book. - 11 July
> The Great Big Green Book is a wonderful educational book packed with ideas and inspiration for ways to keep our planet safe and beautiful for the future.
> The world needs trees. And water. And children need this book, The Great Big Green Book by Mary Hoffman and Ros Asquith. I'd love to think that it can make a difference. The world needs people to do things that will make a difference. A positive one, obviously.
Children are nearly always very open to new ideas, and are far more prepared than adults to change their lifestyles. They just need to be told what they can do.
Words can change a lot, but I wonder if pictures - especially ones like these by Ros - do even more. You just need to see those polar bears on their shrinking piece of ice to understand.
Children do need words, though. I was reading just the other day that a children's dictionary had got rid of a number of nature words, in favour of more 'in' terminology; out with the blackberry and in with the Blackberry. It can be hard to save a world of things when you don't have words for what needs saving.
Recycle, turn the lights off, compost, don't flush the toilet every time and share a shower. Well, actually, I might skip that last idea. Re-use, don't fly everywhere and put another blanket on the bed.
And remember the world almost stands and falls with the bees.
> Conservation and recycling are buzzwords in our household especially with the upcoming BBC series all about waste currently being filmed on our street. The arrival of the ‘The Great Big Book of Green‘ by Mary Hoffman and Ros Asquith could not have come at a better time and it is proving to be an incredibly important addition to our library.
The book is packed with ideas to encourage children to keep our planet safe. There are colourful, thought provoking illustrations along with detailed information about a range of issues from what we need to sustain life on Earth to how the things we take for granted are running out. There is a brilliant glossary of useful words at the back of the book as well as an extensive list of useful websites where children can continue their research.
The action plans in the book include saving water, saving energy, recycling, repairing, growing food, cooking fresh food, saving on packaging and thinking of new inventions. My children have asked lots of questions since reading the book which is a sure sign that the text has resonated with them.
My 10 year old has found ‘The Great Big Book of Green’ very inspirational and he has been thinking of lots of ways to save energy around the house. The book is suitable for younger children too – my 5 year old adores the illustrations and will spend extended periods of time carefully inspecting each image.
This book highlights the importance of keeping the planet beautiful for future generations and what could be a more important message than that for our children?