This month’s book review is all about “Erin and Roderick Discover Families” written by Fliss Goldsmith. The review will go live on Friday, but I thought it would be good to ask the author to share with us what prompted her to write the book. So here’s Fliss telling us all about her motivation for writing the book.
Fliss Goldsmith – author of “Erin and Roderick Discover Families”
What is the question I get asked most? With sincerity it is absolutely, ‘What’s for dinner!’ That’s because, first and foremost, I’m Mum to an awesome eight-year-old daughter and a fabulous five-year -old son. More broadly speaking though, the most often asked question of me is, ‘Why did you write your book?’ I can honestly say that there are many reasons that lead me to write my book, ‘Erin and Roderick Discover Families,’ but the overarching one was because it was utterly essential.
That’s a bold statement Fliss, you may be thinking. But I urge you to read on because where once I was afraid of banging this particular drum, I’m now unapologetic in the noise it brings. Because I have seen the difference it makes.
Let’s take it right back to my first lived experience that brought me up sharp to the realities of the world. My daughter, at the time just five years old, had just started school. Within weeks she was at the mercy of bullying. My sweet, kind, funny, quirky, energetic little one was being bullied. I am not a flaky sort of person, or easily derailed as I have sadly witnessed some atrocities in my life first-hand. But the way this unfolded was beyond brutal.
You may wonder why she was being bullied – it was simply because she was deemed ‘too boyish’. Her favourite colour is blue, she prefers trainers and trousers to sandals and skirts. Superheroes and den building are her go to games and her favourite pass times are sports. Her hair was cut in a cute pixie crop, because from the age of four she had asked for it as she didn’t like hairbands and her hair got in the way of climbing trees and scaling walls.
Within weeks of this bullying beginning, she started to deteriorate. She was quiet, withdrawn, off her food and devoid of joy. Without going into the privacy of what physically and mentally happened to her, I can tell you it was horrific. Fast forward three years and we removed her from that school, home-schooled (before it was pandemic enforced!) and found a new school which she loves. She is still the same feisty, fun, off the wall character and I am proud to say she did not change for the bullies. This was the year that opened my eyes to diversity and it’s absolute centrality in the success of our future.
My ethos for the book
I wrote the book with a very clear ethos; ‘Diversity, Equality and Inclusion through Love, Tolerance and Understanding’. I wanted to create a gentle story with a powerful message. ‘Whatever the Question, let love guide the answer.’
The story is set simply at a park for a family picnic. Erin and Roderick are brother and sister and they are there with their mum and dad. They are joined by their friend Steven who has two mums. The third family swings into the action with their two adopted children.
Throughout their time at the park Roderick raises some questions. Anyone with children will know that you get a minimum of 27,000 questions on any given day! These questions relate to the look and make up of the families. He queries why Steven has two mums and why Yoshi and Zena don’t look like their parents. He wonders why skin colours are not all the same. All of the questions are answered honestly and kindly. Erin and Roderick wonder what makes a family a family if there are so many different types of family. By the end of the story, they realise that love is essentially what binds a family together regardless of how anyone looks.
I knew that I wanted the story to be based in a real-life situation. I think this makes it easier for younger children to relate to. I’m committed to real representation and the inclusion of groups of people that are often not celebrated in children’s stories.
The details are what I hope makes this book stand out. One of the dad’s has tattoos which are rarely seen in kid’s books. One of the mum’s has Fibromyalgia. It’s not explicitly mentioned her walking stick (purple and sparkly!) is always in the scene with her. The children discuss single parent families and divorced families. I worked tirelessly with my editor and illustrator to make these characters true to life in the way they look, act and sound.
My wish is that this book will provide a way of opening conversations between children and their adults, whether at home or at school, and enable us all to talk about our differences and how this is not something to fear questioning. Children are inherently inquisitive, but will react with kindness when shown kindness and acceptance. This story is an engaging way to expose children to the realities of society and engage their celebration of that.
My mission is to make the future kinder one story at a time. As I begin writing the second story in the series, (more information can be found on my website) I’m certain that this book can and will make the difference to the next generation and those to follow. The feedback from those who have already shared their copy is humbling. Schools are now beginning to realise the book’s potential as a valuable PSHE resource. It makes for a fun and comforting bedtime story as well as an informative and affirming learning support.
I would love for you to join me on my mission because I can’t do it alone! The message of this book and those to follow are only as good as those who read it, own it and live it. You can purchase the book and sign up to the monthly newsletter on my website and follow me through Instagram and Facebook.
I will always champion kindness and compassion over any other attributes ourselves and our children can encompass. The power of a book is incredible and the power of us all united in spreading the message of Diversity, Equality and Inclusion through Love, Tolerance and Understanding is limitless. I look forward to hearing YOUR stories as we forge fiercely forwards together.