What kinds of families do the children in your early childhood centre or local community live in?


If everyone you know has just a mum, a dad, and children, in their house, then they will find themselves well represented in children’s literature. But if they have any other pattern, you’ll have to make an extra effort to make sure they can see themselves in books.


For the first article in a series, today we’re starting with great picture books that feature families where grandparents and grandchildren live together, with or without the middle generation.


Multi-generational households

Splash Anna Hibiscus

Anna Hibiscus: Splash!, by Atinuke, illustrated by Lauren Tobia (Walker Books)


Anna Hibiscus lives in an unidentified city in Africa, with a laaaaaarge extended family – not just her mama, papa, and two little brothers, but also several aunties and uncles, masses of big and little cousins, and, at the centre of the household, Grandfather and Grandmother.


When the whole family goes to the beach, though, Anna discovers that sometimes even in her big family, it’s hard to convince someone to play with you. Luckily, when she has a fun time splashing in the sea by herself, her enjoyment is contagious, and eventually everyone wants to join in.


There’s also one other Anna Hibiscus picture book, Anna Hibiscus: Double Trouble, and a set of eight wonderful early chapter books.


Thanks to Walker Books, we have a copy of Anna Hibiscus: Splash! to give away to someone in the Storypark community, anywhere in the world! To let us know you’d like your own copy, please head to our Facebook page.

Kelea's clothes

Kelea’s Clothes by Jill McGregor


‘My name is Kelea. I live in Tonga in the village of Lapah on the island of Tongatapu. My grandparents, aunties and uncles and cousins live here too, so I always have someone to play with.’


In this book Kelea explains all the kinds of clothes people wear for different situations in Tonga.

Razia's ray of hope

Razia’s Ray of Hope: One Girl’s Dream of an Education by Elizabeth Suneby and illustrated by Suana Verelst (Wayland Books)


Razia lives in Afghanistan, with her parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins, who are all involved in a family meeting to decide whether she should be allowed to go to school.


This is the true story of how girls’ education activist and pioneer Razia Jan finally began schooling during the Taliban regime.

Mirror by Jeannie Baker

Mirror, by Jeannie Baker (Walker Books)


This stunning wordless picture book unfolds not from the front but from the middle, in two halves, as two families, one in Australia and one in Morocco, go through their very different daily lives.


The Moroccan family has a range of generations in the one household.

Grandfather and I

Grandfather and I 

Grandmother and I

Grandmother and I by Helen E Buckley, illustrated by Jan Ormerod (HarperCollins)


In both of these charming American books (first published in 1959 and 1961 respectively, and more recently re-released), we see a family with three generations living together, where the grandparents have unique roles in the children’s lives.


Grandfather won’t hurry you when you go on a nature walk, you can just take your time. Grandmother will let you cuddle on her lap for any reason at all, and for as long as you like.


Rasmas by Elizabeth Pulford and illustrated by Jenny Cooper (Scholastic)


This 2017 Storylines Notable Book tells the story of Danny the boy and Rasmas the goat, both of whom have lost their mothers. It’s relevant for lots of different family situations.


At the beginning of the book, Danny and his dad are living with his grandma on her farm. She matches the two motherless boys up and Rasmas and Danny have all sorts of adventures together.


When Dad meets and marries Rona, they move first to the city, while Dad goes away to work, then to their own farm, reunited with Dad and with Rasmas.


Grandparents raising grandchildren

School Days by Jill MacGregor

School Days, by Jill McGregor


When Seimelia’s parents are away studying in Fiji, she lives with her grandparents back in Tuvalu.


Another in Jill McGregor’s Children of the Pacific series, this book shows us the details of daily life for Seimelia, from what she eats and wears, to what it’s like going to school and church.


Joone by Emily Kate Moon (Dial)


What a sweet and quirky book! Joone lives with her retired scientist Grandpa, and her turtle, Dr Chin, in a yurt.


‘My name is Joone. Some people spell it with a U. I spell it with a smiley face.’

The singing dolphin Te Aihe i Waiata

The Singing Dolphin/Te Aihe i Waiata by Mere Whaanga (Scholastic)


In this special book, shortlisted for the 2017 New Zealand Children’s Book Awards, Mere Whaanga has created a bilingual, beautifully illustrated story of an ancient family and a boy who became a dolphin. Grandmother is raising three grandsons: Tahi and Rua who are experts in working the land and the sea, and little Potiki the dreamer and singer, who is too little to join in. The story unfolds in both languages on each page, and there’s a glossary at the back so even people with limited reo can learn a bit as they go.

Kimi and the watermelon

Kimi and the Watermelon, by Miriam Smith


Kimi lives with her grandmother and her Uncle Tau, in the countryside. When Uncle Tau has to go to the city for work, he reassures Kimi that he’ll be home by the time their tiny watermelon plant has grown a big watermelon.


This is a lovely, gentle book about waiting, family and the land, and is well worth seeking out.


Thanks to Walker Books, we have a copy of Anna Hibiscus: Splash! to give away to someone in the Storypark community, anywhere in the world! To let us know you’d like your own copy, please head to our Facebook page.

Thalia Kehoe RowdenThalia Kehoe Rowden was a Playcentre kid before attending St John’s Hill Kindergarten in Whanganui, New Zealand. Some time later, she became a Baptist church minister, then a mother and a writer. She now lives with her husband and two small children in Wellington, New Zealand, and knows more about dinosaurs and astronomy than ever before. You can follow her on TwitterFacebook, and her parenting, spirituality and social justice website, Sacraparental.

Posted by Sonya McIntyre

Sonya was born in Lower Hutt and went to Rata Street Kindergarten and Petone Kindergarten. A qualified ECE, she studied at Victoria University in Wellington and has worked with home-based educators, in community-based childcare and in kindergarten. With childhood memories of reading books and writing stories, combined with her passion for all things social media, Sonya segued into her role with us at Storypark as social media manager.

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One Comment

  1. I like that in the Harry and the Bucketful of Dinosaurs series, Harry just happens to live with Mum, Nan, and his sister (Sam).

    Harry and Sam’s father is never mentioned, nor is the make-up of their household presented as unusual or as ‘an issue’. Indeed it’s largely irrelevant to the plot; the stories would be pretty much the same if Harry’s household included his father rather than his grandmother (as they would, incidentally, were his best friend Charlie a boy rather than a girl).

    Harry just goes about playing with his dinosaurs and his friends. That his household includes his Nan is simply the way things are. http://www.harryandthedinosaurs.co.uk/


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