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Academic Articles

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What Makes a Family? The Radical Portrayal of Diverse Families in Australian Picture Books

Sarah Mokrzycki


Children’s fiction has a history of challenging family conventions, from the inevitable wicked stepmother throughout fairy tales to the orphaned protagonists of 19th century children’s novels. In recent years there has been a small, but important, increase in Australian published picture books that showcase family diversity. However, family diversity is still a contentious issue in Australian picture books. Divergence from the traditional or nuclear family model, whether by structure, culture, gender or sexuality, remains nothing short of radical. The most common portrayal of a ‘typical’ Australian picture book family is white, middle class, with both biological parents and a male child protagonist. Australian picture book families are not just traditionally ‘intact’, but heteronormative, able-bodied, fully biological and highly gendered.

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