February 08, 2024

All Our Love

Written by Kari-Lynn Winters
Illustrated by Scot Ritchie
North Winds Press (Scholastic Canada) 
32 pp.
Ages 3-8
January 2024 
We know that families come in so many configurations but do all children know that? All Our Love shows one wonderful family that may be just right as it is but will become even more right with a new baby.
From All Our Love, written by Kari-Lynn Winters, illustrated by Scot Ritchie
Sofia and her two dads are anticipating the arrival of a new baby. As Dad builds a crib, Sofia works on a welcome letter for the baby. But she has so many questions! When will the baby arrive? Will it want her as a big sister? Will it change their family from being "just right" which her dads said their family became when Sofia came along.

But Sofia is also incredibly excited. When her dad finally arrives at school to tell her that it was time to go to the hospital, she thinks about all she's written "To the new baby." She mentions what Dad likes and does, while Daddy does other stuff. And she speaks about having a Dad and a Daddy because "We're just lucky, I guess!" Finally, after masking up and joining Daddy at the hospital, the family of four heads home, with the letter, now addressed to Oliver, being read, and signed off with "All our love."
From All Our Love, written by Kari-Lynn Winters, illustrated by Scot Ritchie
There is so much love in this household. Sofia knows she is loved, and she wants the baby to know they are loved too. So, all the things that her dads show her that prove their love for her, Sofia shares with the baby. She talks of Dad picking her up from school, and making pancakes for dinner on Tuesdays, and Daddy telling jokes and kissing boo-boos from falls. This child knows love. 
Kari-Lynn Winters can give us funny (e.g., What If I'm Not a Cat? and Bad Pirate) but there is always a degree of tenderness in her stories. Her books like French Toast and Gift Days remind us that there are things which children may think about that may be surprising or different but they are legitimate questions and challenges that children may be experiencing. In All Our Love, while Sofia wonders what the new baby will mean to their family, her welcome letter suggests that she knows that they might wonder about a family with two daddies. This question may have been posed to Sofia herself and her answer acknowledges that she and the baby may have a different family than others but that's what makes it more special. Though Kari-Lynn Winters's dedication suggests that the story is inspired by one particular family or two, All Our Love really speaks to every family, whether with two dads, two moms, only a mom or a dad, or both a mom and a dad, or no moms and dads. If there is love, it is a family.
From All Our Love, written by Kari-Lynn Winters, illustrated by Scot Ritchie
Scot Ritchie, illustrator of countless books of his own (e.g., Federica) as well as those of others (e.g., Zander Stays), has an art style that is soft in line and colour and tender in its spirit. As All Our Love comes from the perspective of Sofia writing a letter to her new sibling, Scot Ritchie has given the illustrations a sweet, anticipatory feel. From Sofia thinking and writing about what this new change will mean, to the family that feels the stars of a birth's magnificence, Scot Ritchie's art takes us on their journey from waiting and hoping to welcoming and celebrating.
I hope that young readers will see this as a story of two dads and their children but will also recognize that it goes beyond that because of the love that comes with family. With all that love, this family will be just right, no matter its composition.

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