Written by Jodie to fill the gap her and her wife were experiencing when trying to find representative books to read to their twin girls, The Pirate Mums is a celebration of different families. Whether children live with grandparents, speak a different language at home, or have same-sex parents it is a book that teachers tolerance and acceptance. Here Jodie tells us more about about how important it is to show young children an inclusive world view.
When I had children, I wasn’t surprised to discover that my first instinct for those big, teachable moments was to turn to books. Possibly before most other facets of my personality, I am a reader. I’m the kind of reader for whom the entire world disappears when lost in the pages of a book, who panics if she forgets her kindle on even a short train journey (thank goodness for the app on my phone!), and who has missed her stop whilst reading so regularly it is no longer worth commenting on.
So when my young daughters started to realise that our family – having two mums – was a little different to other peoples, the first thing I did was look for books that would reflect our life back at them. I wanted to show them that families like ours were as worth telling stories about as any others.
I was so disappointed at how few there were to choose from that – encouraged by my wife – I decided to write my own. The Pirate Mums, published in June 2021 OUP, is about a little boy called Billy who just wishes his family could be a bit more like everyone else’s. The adult reader will likely assume – especially when they see the gorgeous LGBTQ+ family portraits created by illustrator Lydia Corry – that this is because Billy has two mums. But as the story unfolds, we see that in fact it’s because they’re pirates. It takes Billy’s parents saving the day on a school trip to the seaside, with an ill-fated boat ride included, for his embarrassment at their outlandish pirate clothes and penchant for singing sea shanties to turn into pride.
The authors of the few books I was able to find that featured same-sex parents three years ago – most of which came out long before that – have done something wonderful and moving: write and bring their stories to market when major publishers were not interested, often when texts like theirs were not only not embraced by schools and teachers but, due to Section 28 and its hangovers actively rejected.
And whilst, due simply to age and changing publishing production values, the books perhaps didn’t quite stand up to the jazzy frontlist titles my girls were enjoying at the same time, it was quite clear to see that they had an immediate and deep connection with stories that showed a family with two mums. My daughters returned to Mommy, Mama and Me and others again and again. And they search out and talk about any incidental same-sex couples they see in other books, too – such as Lauren Ace and Jenny Lovlie’s beautiful The Girls or Sue Hendra and Paul Linnett’s Snowball. Time and again, they put their own experience of love, as they see it shared between their two mums, centre stage, even when that love is not the main focus of the actual stories.
I am thrilled, though, to be part of what feels like an explosion in the publication of books for young children that feature same-sex relationships. I hope that books like My Daddies, by Gareth Peters and Garry Parsons, Nen and the Lonely Fisherman by Ian Eagleton and James Mayhew and my own and Lydia Corry’s The Pirate Mums make it easier for parents and teachers to discuss LGBTQ+ relationships with kids.
But what I hope more is that the existence of these books, the way they help normalise what are everyday relationships and everyday families, will mean that, soon, the idea of boys falling in love with boys and girls with girls, and the notion of families with two mums or two dads, no longer need to be teachable moments at all.
Jodie Lancet-Grant (nee Mullish) is an award-winning Communications Director at Pan Macmillan imprint Bluebird. She has over ten years of publicity and marketing experience in the publishing industry and has also worked as a freelance copywriter and journalist. Jodie lives in East London with her wife and their twin daughters.
The Pirate Mums by Jodie Lancet-Grant, illustrated by Lydia Corry is published by Oxford Children’s Books The Pirate Mums – Best Books for Schools