“Where do babies come from?”
Oh, the million dollar question that sends caregivers everywhere into panicked frenzies. While the old “when a man and a woman love each other very much…” adage might still hold true in some families, the reality is that not every child is brought into the world in quite the same way.
Zak’s Safari is an independently-published picture book that presents a very modern babymaking story for very modern families. When a change in the weather forces a little boy to change his safari adventure plans, he decides to instead take readers through the story of how he came to be. Zak is the child of two moms who met, fell in love and decided to start a family. To make their dream of a family a reality, Zak’s mothers turn to a sperm bank for help.
With its focus on two-mom families, Zak’s Safari uses child-appropriate language to discuss how children are created with the help of a sperm bank, and celebrates the ways in which families created in different ways can be just as full of love and zaniness as any other family.
What makes Zak’s Safari pretty neat, in addition to the fact that it deals with an underrepresented family dynamic, is the way in which the book came to be. The author, Christy Tyner, and her wife grew their family through sperm donation, and when the time came to talk to her children about where they came from, Tyner went searching for picture books to share with them. When she couldn’t find any picture books that reflected her family’s story she decided to write her own, and turned to Kickstarter to help fund the picture book’s creation. The book is now available on Amazon, but in a really fantastic move the author has made the entire book available to read for free on the book’s website.
From an LGBTQ perspective, Zak’s Safari is also fantastic because of the way it depicts an interracial same-sex family that challenges traditional stereotypes surrounding lesbians and lesbian couples. A frustratingly pervasive stereotype holds that women cannot be both lesbian and conventionally feminine – in its obsession with fitting people into categories, society has decreed that lesbian women need to be “butch” or hyper masculine, or else in a relationship with a woman who is. The reality is, of course, that people come in all forms. A woman can be both conventionally feminine and a lesbian, or conventionally masculine and straight, or any variation they want, at any time! An individual’s sexuality might influence their personal expression, but it might not. After years of short-haired lesbian couples in picture books, it’s refreshing to see a lesbian couple that doesn’t fall into this traditional trope. Straight women come in endless varieties, and guess what? So do queer women!
Sweet, educational and inclusive, Zak’s Safari is a fun and welcoming picture book that celebrates the complexity of modern families.