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Saturday, May 23, 2015

My Family Tree and Me, written and illustrated by Dusan Perticic. Kids Can Press, 2015. $17.95 ages 6 and up

"Without my great-grandfather
and great-grandmother,
I would never have had Pops,
my grandfather, who met
his match in Nana,
my grandmother.
If I didn't have
my grandfather
and grandmother,
how could I have my
uncle, aunt, and dad?"

The two-greats grandparents that Dusan Petricic begins his book with are from his father's side of the family.

"A long, long, long
time ago there lived my
great-great-grandfather and
my great-great-grandmother."

Moving from one generation forward to the next one (and looking closely at the detailed and often humorous accompanying images), astute readers will certainly note the genetic markers that identify family members. Obviously, red hair and hampered sight are passed down, and connect back to the father and son we meet on the title page before the book even begins.

When we get to his father's generation, the three siblings show a strong resemblance to each other. The boy narrator is happy to have them. Turn the page and we see that all three are married: wedding pictures show the diversity in their choice of partners. Reaching the middle of the book, we finally get to meet the whole crew.

Not content to tell his audience about his paternal relatives, the boy moves on to tell us about his mother's family as well. For the return journey he begins in the present and traces the family backwards. The identical wedding picture of his parents for that side of the family is accompanied by his mom's brother and sister and their partners. Back we go to his two-greats grandparents on his mother's side, completing a perfect look at everyone who makes up his family tree. Brilliant!

The focus on family is strong, and full of delight. I love the reversal that begins in the center of the book, where this story is centered (on the boy and his extended family). Cleverly designed and joyful to explore, this is a terrific book to share when you want to talk with children about families. It's also a bit of a history, science and humor for those who have the chance to read it.

When asking 'what makes a family?, this book makes an inspiring introduction to the topic.


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