By Alaina Leary
Today we’re pleased to welcome Ryan Brockington and Isaac Webster to the WNDB blog to discuss their picture book Daddy & Dada, illustrated by Lauren May, out May 18, 2021!
Families can come in all shapes and sizes, and this heartwarming picture book affirms that no matter what your family looks like, love is the most important part!
Hi, I’m Rumi.
Some of my friends have one mom and one dad.
Some have one mom or one dad.
I have two dads. Daddy and Dada.
Every family is different.
And that’s pretty cool.This sweet, open-hearted book began as a love letter from authors Ryan Brockington and Isaac Webster to their daughter—and became a joyous celebration of love, family, and acceptance for all to read and share.
I adore the inspiration story behind why you wrote this book. Can you share that with our readers?
Ryan: We originally wrote this book as a birthday present for our daughter on her fourth birthday, to continue the conversation around her adoption, which we know is so important to start at a young age. Her version of the book is called Rumi and is quite different from where Daddy & Dada landed.
Isaac: Our daughter’s curious and loving spirit inspired us to write this. We took out many things that are unique to her, and developed more of a broad story that we think celebrates not only families like ours but hundreds of other unique and super amazing families.
How can a book like this help kids—both LGBTQ+ kids and kids with LGBTQ+ families—feel seen and represented, and comfortable being themselves?
Ryan: Simply by being read and shared and part of a larger collection of stories in your household. We all know how important it is to see people like you represented in literature, especially at a young age.
Isaac: Yes! Daddy & Dada is not meant to be looked at as supplemental; we want it to live in between two other stories your kids are really loving at any given time. Sometimes kids don’t know how to ask questions they so desperately want to find answers for, and we think this book helps kids understand how awesome their own family is, no matter how it’s made.
If you’re comfortable, can you share what a book like this might have meant for you as a kid? And what do you hope it will mean to young readers now?
Ryan: I always knew I wanted to be a dad. I also always knew I was gay. For a very long time, I thought I would have to deny one of those truths for the other. If there were more stories out there like this, showing love in all shapes and sizes, I think I would have been a little more hopeful that all of my dreams were possible.
Isaac: I think this book would have saved me years of wrongly thinking it wasn’t in the cards for me to have a family. And my dream was to have children! I hope kids hear this story and see a bright future ahead of them.
What was your process like co-writing this book together? How did you decide where the story would go and how you wanted to introduce the diversity of families?
Ryan: The first draft was easy because it was our own story, and as we went through it again, we simply looked at people in our lives and realized how amazingly different they all were. Many of the families featured are based on people on our street and in our community—and a couple were just super fun and maybe one day we will run across them in the future! And it was amazing to see how the illustrator Lauren May portrayed our family and the other families through her adorable artwork.
Isaac: Co-writing this was really fun. It’s written in Rumi’s voice and is inspired by all the wonderful friends and neighbors we have. Ryan and I both had phrases of Rumi’s we wanted to incorporate. We hoped to capture her lively spirit and heart. The real challenge was editing the material down to fit in one book.
If you could assemble your dream panel for this book, what would it be about? What other authors or friends might you invite to be on it?
Ryan: Peter Parnell, Justin Richardson, and Henry Cole’s And Tango Makes Three was the first children’s book I was exposed to where I saw a family being made with two dads. Definitely them! Daniel Haack and Stevie Lewis’s Prince & Knight is also a big hit in our house, and we weirdly look like the two characters in that book—our daughter constantly thinks it’s us, so they’re also on my list
Isaac: My dream panel would draw from the real-life dads and moms and kids who inspired the pictures you see in the book. And I have to echo Ryan as far as authors: the creators behind And Tango Makes Three and Prince & Knight were guiding lights. A big inspiration for me was Ferdinand by Munro Leaf.
What other books do you see Daddy & Dada as being in conversation with? Are there any MG or YA books that you feel would be a good companion to this?
Ryan: Books like Same, Same but Different by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw or Feminist Baby by Loyrn Brantz for sure; anything that celebrates the power of being unique. I think reminding kids how special it is to be themselves and own the power of their story is at the root of any powerful children’s book in our house.
Isaac: There are so many amazing and diverse books for kids coming out it’s impossible to determine. It’s an honor to be a part of this moment when more and more voices are being heard and celebrated. If I could share this book with Francesca Lia Block, I would feel very accomplished! Her Weetzie Bat series was super helpful in my coming out process.
Do you have any recommendations for forthcoming or published kidlit?
Ryan: All the books I just mentioned!
Isaac: We love Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty and illustrated by David Roberts and all the sister books of that series. We read a lot of The Berenstain Bears. And we love the Mr. Magee books by Chris Van Dusen. And we always go back to Madeline, Eloise, Froggy, and can’t forget Peppa Pig.
What’s one question you wish you were asked more often (and the answer)?
Ryan: When is your favorite time to read to your kids? In the morning all four of us get in our bed and read a few stories before even going downstairs for breakfast. It might be 6:00 a.m., but at least it’s 6:00 a.m. and we’re all together in some faraway land, if only for a few minutes.
Isaac: Occasionally people will ask why we read so much and I always find this question funny. Because what else are we supposed to do with the kids? They love storytime. It brings us all closer and enriches the kids’ imaginations. And it’s fun! I can’t think of a better or more rewarding experience than to simply sit down with your kids and read to them.
Ryan Brockington and Isaac Webster met in 2007, married in 2013, and became dads in 2016. As their family became larger, they quickly realized stories like theirs weren’t being shared as much as they would hope, and so they set out to create a new world of stories, celebrating all families.
Alaina (Lavoie) is the communications manager of We Need Diverse Books. She also teaches in the graduate department of Writing, Literature, and Publishing at Emerson College and is a book reviewer for Booklist. She received a 2017 Bookbuilders of Boston scholarship for her work in the publishing industry. Her writing has been published in New York Times, Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Refinery29, Allure, Healthline, Glamour, The Oprah Magazine, and more. She currently lives in Boston with her wife and their two literary cats. Follow her @AlainasKeys on Instagram and Twitter.