Mina Starsiak Hawk’s new picture book celebrates non-traditional families, including her own.
Fans of the HGTV show, Good Bones, might recall Hawk and Karen E. Laine’s (Hawk’s mom and the other half of Two Chicks and a Hammer) humorous attempts at diagraming their complicated family tree. The point of the exercise was that, regardless of the meandering branches and numerous offshoots, at the end of the day — both women agree — they’re all family.
“Obviously, my family is not the mom and dad, three kids and a dog kind of situation,” Hawk says of the inspiration behind Built Together. “My parents got divorced when I was three, so I was exposed to a lot of different types of families. The way I was raised created an environment where I could understand all the different types of family structures.”
Hawk, now a mother of two, wants to share this message of inclusivity with young readers and her son, Jack, who inspired the book’s child narrator.
Built Together begins with the little boy pondering how his robust family came together — whether his mom and dad needed a hammer and nails to build the family. Built Together is a play on building and constructing families that goes beyond blood relatives to include neighbors and even rescue animals.
“We made a point of raising our son Jack with a village that is his family,” says Hawk of her and her husband’s approach to bringing up their kids. “The more people you have that care about you and love you, the better. Jack has a lot of people in his life, aunts and uncles, who aren’t blood relatives.”
The book celebrates modern, non-traditional families and teaches kids about diversity by modeling acts of kindness and acceptance through pictures. “Jack’s two and a half now, so it’s not really a conversation, as I think it’s really lifestyle choices at this age,” Hawk says of the context for her decision to cover grownup issues in a children’s picture book. “When Jack gets older and understands the right words, we will be able to talk about it more. For kids, you need to show that people dress differently and look different … but they are part of the family, too.”
Like the houses Hawk and Laine renovate in Good Bones, families come in all shapes and sizes. What matters is having a good foundation. “I didn’t apply for a show,” Hawk says. “I fell into this amazing situation that has given me a platform for so many opportunities, and writing this book has been one of them.”
Hawk adds, “Not to put too much pressure on a kids’ book, but I wanted to do something with what I know, which is construction, and my family is definitely non-traditional,” she says. “And I think, especially now, there have been so many polarizing things going on, that having something that kids can read at a young age, that’s specifically about making their unique family, it’s a fun play on the many positive messages that kids’ books have.”
Built Together, published by Zonderkidz, is available wherever books are sold.