Newman, Lesléa (Author) and Souza, Diana (Illustrator). (2000). Heather Has Two Mommies (Tenth Anniversary Edition). Los Angeles, CA: Alyson Publications.
This classic children’s book was published in 1990 by Alyson Wonderland, a line of children’s books for queer families, after a year of rejections from mainstream presses and a self-publishing attempt that attracted little notice. Sadly (but not surprisingly), the book garnered heavy controversy after appearing in public libraries. Political groups and stakeholders in school and public libraries around the nation made (and continue to make) attempts to ban Heather or relegate copies to special request sections, away from children.
Although presumably the book is controversial because of queer content, the word “lesbian” (or any other identity word) is not actually mentioned in the text. The illustrations and descriptions show a happy, well-adjusted little girl going to preschool and learning about family diversity. Her parents happen to both be women. Other classmates have divorced parents, adoptive parents, single parents, siblings, and so forth. It’s beautiful in its simplicity, and incorporates family pictures “drawn” by Heather’s friends to show off their family structures. Heather’s family is special, just like everybody else’s family; one lovely line reads: “The most important thing about a family is that all the people in it love each other.”
This tenth anniversary edition differs from the earlier edition in two ways. The text is shorter than the original version, to keep young children interested and able to process without cognitive overload. I have not read the first edition, but I did appreciate the length and wording, and feel that children will enjoy and understand the message, particularly since all families are honored. The other change is that information about Heather’s conception and birth have been removed from this edition. Again, since I have not read the original edition, I can’t form an opinion about it, but I can say that this edition feels very well-rounded and complete, and the fact that queerness is normalized is very refreshing.
I think this book is terrific and appropriate for any child in any kind of family who is at a picture book reading level. Children will enjoy looking at the illustrations of different kinds of families and may be stirred to discuss their own. Besides family structure, there are also different ethnicities, body sizes, and levels of physical ability represented in the family illustrations. This range of diversity is not particularly remarked upon, but children will almost certainly notice.