JUST HAPPENS TO BE BOOKS, an imprint of Barrow Court Books, promotes the idea that all children should be able to see themselves and their families in the pages of a book. We just don’t make a big deal about it – because it really shouldn’t be.
Grandpa’s Walking Stick is the first of what I hope will be many books under the Just Happens To Be Books imprint. It’s the story of a young girl getting to know her grandfather. Her parents just happen to be her Daddy and Papa.
Several years ago, I heard the term just happens to be used by a number of LGBT performers discussing how they hoped that one day it would matter less when LGBT characters were featured in television shows or movies – a character would just happen to be gay or lesbian or transgendered. It wouldn’t be a big deal. Truthfully, I initially thought it was a dumb concept. Of course it would matter, I reasoned. You can’t just gloss over a detail like that.
And then I went to an exhibit of Ezra Jack Keats’ work, including the classic award-winning picture book The Snowy Day. Peter, the young boy exploring his neighborhood after a snowstorm, just happened to be Black. The color of his skin didn’t matter. Yes, it was important at the time to feature minority children, but the book is remarkable not because it features a minority child — it’s remarkable (in my opinion) because of the story.
Yes, all children should be able to see themselves and their families in the pages of a book. No, it shouldn’t be a big deal. And maybe one day it won’t.