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Friday 3 April 2020

Guest Post: Bernadette Green on Who's Your Real Mum?

Bernadette Green’s debut picture book Who’s Your Real Mum? is a response to a question many children ask about same-sex parents. The source is love and this is the shining light in this warm and beautifully illustrated picture book on non-traditional families.

 Bernadette, is Who’s Your Real Mum? your debut picture book?
Yes, it is.

Who’s Your Real Mum?  is a delicate and emotive view of a non-traditional family, and the curiosity of a friend wanting to know. How did the idea for it come about?
My partner is also a woman and when our children started school, they were asked which one of us was their real mum. I felt for my kids having to navigate those sorts of questions and at the same time I understood the curiosity of the child asking.  I wanted to explore the question and its answer in a way that took the pressure off children from same sex parented families but also respected the curiosity of children and their love for answers.

The structure of the family unit has changed significantly during the last ten years. Do you agree that children struggle to understand the concept of same parent families?
I think children understand what is celebrated and visible around them. But there hasn’t been a great deal of movies, TV shows or books featuring same-sex parented families, particularly those that talk to a young audience. The more visible rainbow families there are, the more acceptance there will be.

Was this in any way a motivation for your own story?
Yes. When my kids were younger it would have been lovely if families like their own were in the shows they were watching and the books they were reading. It would have been a powerful message about the acceptance of their family. It would have also given kids from more traditional families an opportunity to see a range of families. And of course, some of those kids may themselves grow up to become part of the LGBTIQ community, and in their case, it is an early message of acceptance.

The main theme is love, an emotion easily understood by children.  Where do you hope your book will find its most valuable/educational space?
I hope that kids from all sorts of families enjoy the book and it helps to show that although family structures can be different, that it’s the fundamentals of love that are important.

I would also love to see it amongst the collections of kindergartens and schools, who I think play an important role in reflecting the diverse range of children’s experiences.  

Anna Zobel has done a meticulous job in translating your text. How did she come to be chosen as illustrator?
Scribble publisher, Miriam Rosenbloom, always looks for a certain feeling when she matches the text with an illustrator. With Who’s Your Real Mum? she looked around for about a year. During that time, Anna was commenting on Scribble’s Instagram posts and when Miriam checked out her pictures, she immediately thought Anna would be great for the project.

Picture books take time to create and bring to bookshelves. Can you share with us your long-term hopes as writer/creator of children’s picture books?
I currently have a couple of projects bubbling away and my hope is that these make it out into the world. The moment when an illustrator animates the ideas in a writer’s head are magical and make me want to produce many more picture books. The type that kids are drawn to and that offer both wonder and comfort.

Have you considered other age groups for future target audiences?
As well as working on another picture book, I am currently writing a middle-grade fantasy novel, which also features rainbow families. While there is danger and adventure in this fictional world, the type of family the characters are born into is no big deal.

Bernadette Green grew up loving animals and being outside. She dreamed of becoming a writer, but life took her in many different directions. She trained as a youth worker and shiatsu therapist before returning to writing. Bernadette lives in Melbourne with her partner and children, and their dog, Coco.