Operation Marriage – Perfect Picture Book

Operation Marriage

Cynthia Chin-Lee, Author

Lea Lyon, Illustrator

Reach and Teach and PM Press, Fiction, 2011

Suitable for:  Ages 4 and Up

Themes:  Equality, Gay Parents, Difficulty for Children, Loving Families

Synopsis:  After school my best friend Zach said to me, “We can’t be best friends anymore.”  “Why not?”  “It’s your parents, Alex.  They’re…they’re not really married.”  “Of course they’re married,”  I said.  My face got red-hot.  “No, they’re not.  My dad says two women can’t be married.”  He dashed away.  Alex and Nicky are confused when they realize their parents had a commitment ceremony, but had not been able to get married at the time.  They tell Mama Lee and Mama Kathy that they want them to get married and start planning their “Operation Marriage,” campaign.  Because Proposition 8 might pass in California, their parents decide to get married in a church.  Alex is a bridesmaid, and Nicky is the ring bearer.  They shop for dressy clothing, flowers, and baked special foods.  Alex and Nicky get to invite two friends.  At school Alex shows her friends the wedding photos, including Zach.

The children live in San Francisco, and their mothers get married in 2008, when California briefly authorized same-sex marriages, then revoked the right with Proposition 8.  The author shows how difficult it was for children of gay parents.  I can only imagine how confused the children must have been with all the negativity they heard from kids at school, on television, and the signs that appeared in their neighborhood.  This book is such an honest and raw portrayal of one such loving and resilient family.  I highly recommend this book.  There are loving families everywhere that are not typical.  There are families with two Dads, or two Moms.  There are also families with single parents, and families where grandparents and aunts and uncles are raising the children.  They share one thing in common — love.

Why I like this book:  Based on a true story, Cynthia Chin-Lee has captivated the difficulties that children face living in a same-sex marriage family.  Lea Lyon’s illustrations are colorful, bold and evoke the emotion of the story.   What I found interesting was that this book involved a community.   The family depicted in the story was a member of First Presbyterian Church Palo Alto.  Cynthia invited the families and individuals from the church and from her neighborhood to come to church on a Sunday.   They all acted out the scenes from the book that happened in the church.  Lea photographed everything.  They went to Cynthia’s house to act out the rest of the book, with Lea directing and photographing.  Lea did pencil sketches of the scenes and author/publisher/illustrator worked together on the storyboard.  Lea painted (water-color) over the sketches and the team worked together to fine tune the book.  Their teamwork demonstrates how committed the author, illustrator and community were in publishing this book.   Their story was published in four Bay Area newspapers in the  Mercury News family.

Activity Resources:  Click on  What Makes a Family, and Celebrating our Own Families and Understanding Other Families.

For more books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.  Or click on the Perfect Picture Book Fridays  badge in the right sidebar.