Second Printing!

A Family Is a Family Is a Family is going into second printing and I am so joy-filled I could be a drawing by Qin Leng!

While I'm here, could I ask a favour? We've been very lucky with reviews (stars from Kirkus, School Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly) but it would be nice to have a few more reader reviews up here if anyone has the time or inclination. Thanks!


This Is Sadie Shortlisted

A photo posted by Sara O'Leary (@123olearyo) on

This Is Sadie is shortlisted for the Quebec Writers Federation Prize for Children’s/YA Literature.

Here's the complete list:
  • Bonnie Farmer; Marie Lafrance, ill.‚ Oscar Lives Next Door(Owlkids Books)
  • Sara O’Leary; Julie Morstad, ill.‚ This Is Sadie (Tundra Books)
  • Mélanie Watt‚ Bug in a Vacuum (Tundra)


Thoughts on Family

I'm so happy to have this book out in the world. Here are a few recent looks at my new book with Qin Leng, A Family Is a Family Is a Family.

Book Dragon at the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center has a lovely write up.

As author Sara O’Leary configures her many delightfully diverse familial units, artist Qin Leng – with her signature style so overflowing with whimsy and charm – imbues each member with individual identity and unique personality, all brought together with enveloping warmth and unbreakable bonds. The message is powerfully simple: no one gets to define a family but the members themselves. Audacious and obvious both, Family is already a well-deserved bestseller on our northern neighbor’s various lists. That said, this Canadian import undoubtedly belongs on bookshelves everywhere.

School Library Journal has very kindly awarded the book a star. (I believe this is our third!)

In this warm, nondiscriminating narrative, O’Leary removes limiting definitions and labels like “adopted,” “fostered,” or “divorced” and instead presents a tale that is innocent and wise. Leng’s ink and digitally rendered watercolor illustrations are light and airy and complement the text by capturing the thoughts and purity of a child’s perspective. The classroom is a beautiful blend of children of different races, genders, and body types. VERDICT Parents, caregivers, and educators will appreciate the message that this story offers for one-on-one sharing and for discussion with small groups. A sweet and tender tale that shows that families are composed of love regardless of how they may be configured.

Waking Brain Cells has a lovely look at the book with bonus points for use of the word "zings."

O’Leary does not lecture about families here. Rather she shows the wide variety that there are in families and how each of those is based on love. There is no need to be didactic, as every child will see themselves in the pages of this book. It is a wise way to look at families, since each is just as special and marvelous as the one before. The emphasis here is on love itself, the care that is given to children in each of those families no matter their structure. Leng’s illustrations add so much warmth to this picture book. The illustrations are full of details and invite readers to look closely. Each page zings with energy from the mothers singing under the night sky to the child who lives with both her father and mother, just at different times. There is a playfulness on the pages too, which makes each family come to life.
The response by readers on Goodreads has also been very positive. I'm particularly heartened to see favourable notices from those who may find themselves slightly outside their own comfort zone but willing to join in with a the celebration of all kinds of families.

And finally, quite literally a look at the book, provided by Kellie Diguangco who runs thekaleidoscopeca


Books matter

Very happy to find A Family Is a Family Is a Family sitting on the Canadian bestseller list for picture books!

Also, pretty happy about this--from an article titled "It's The Most Wonderful TIme of the Year," written by JoEllen McCarthy and published by Heinemann.
There have also recently been very nice notices for A Family Is a Family Is a Family in CM Magazine and Montreal Families.


Qin Leng

One of the joys of my job is the the people I get to work with. My most recent collaboration has been with Qin Leng,  an illustrator Kirkus Reviews recently dubbed a "rising star."

Bernie Goedhart, in her Montreal Gazette review of A Family Is a Family Is a Family writes: "Her art first drew my eye because it reminded me of two favourite illustrators — Britain’s Quentin Blake and Australia’s Bob Graham — in that they all share a loose line, colourful palette and distinctive detail work." High praise, indeed.

So who is Qin LengLet's start with the basics:

Qin Leng was born in Shanghai, China and as a child moved to Bordeaux, France. She studied film at Concordia University in Montreal and currently lives in Toronto where she works in the animation industry.  

And here's a lovely little self-portrait by Qin.


I'm very grateful to Sheila Barry at Groundwood Books for bringing Qin and I together on this book. I think the lightness of touch and sheer exuberance of the illustrations lifts what could have been quite heavy subject matter. In celebration of working together, I asked Qin if she'd answer a few questions for me to share here.

What was your favourite book as a child?

     That's a tricky question, there were so many books I loved when I was little.  More than anything, I would love to spend my days reading...I loved to read at the mall when my mom was shopping, at the library, in my bed, during the day, at night under my covers (which, I think, is partly why I've needed glasses since I was 8!). I think my all time favourite, which still remains a huge source of inspiration to this day, are the Petit Nicolas series by Jean-Jacques Sempé. The illustrations were drawn with such spontaneity and the lines kept so simple, it's always something I strive to achieve in my own work.

What do you like about making picture books?

     I love inventing worlds and characters. I grew up as a really shy kid, but I was very observant, and the best way for me to express myself was through pictures. Even now, I love people watching and taking in stories I hear around me. On beautiful days, I like to go out and sit at a café or a park and looking at passers by and imagine what kind of characters they are and what lives they lead.

What are you working on now?

     I am always working on multiple projects at once. I dislike long breaks, it makes me anxious and I feel like I am wasting my time...I constantly want to be accomplishing something! I just wrapped up a new picture book with Comme des Geants, written by Céline Claire, called "L'Abri." I am really excited about this one, because it was entirely done with ink and watercolour, no digital painting (which I normally do). So that was a challenge I really enjoyed. I am also currently illustrating the 5th chapter book in a series written by Ellen Potter called "Piper Green and the Fairy Tree: Pie Girl," for Random House.Then there's a new picture book with Harper Collins about the childhood of Jane Austen. It's called "Ordinary, Extraordinary Jane Austen" and is written by Deborah Hopkinson. Finally, I'm working on a board book of Dennis Lee's bedtime poems for HarperCollins Canada. And for the next coming year, there are a few more things in my agenda, such as the very first picture book I am going to write AND illustrate!

It's hard to get an accurate count on just how many books Qin has done, so here are covers from a few of my personal favourites.

Qin is represented by Shannon Associates.
And you can find her online here:


Celebrating You Are Two

You Are Two is now out in the world which is a good excuse for bringing this post on my books with Karen Klassen up to date.

We received a lovely review (and a ✭) from Kirkus Review.

A big thank you to Julie Danielson for a lovely introduction to our series of baby books with Owlkids Books, illustrated by the prodigiously talented Karen Klassen. The article is here at Kirkus reviews and there is more art from the books over at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

You Are One also got great write-ups from The National Reading CampaignCM Magazine, and 49th Shelf.

To celebrate the start of this series, Karen Klassen generously created portraits of the two of us in the style of the books. I was already happy to be working with Karen but now I'm really happy!

All The Wonders was good enough to debut the book trailer made by Owlkids. You can see it here and the trailer for You Are Two is here.


Happy Families

A few more notices for our little Family.

Kerry Clare is both generous and insightful over at Pickle Me This

From the child whose parents won’t stop kissing to the family with so many kids, the family with split custody, the blended family, the single parents, two dads, and the child who lives with her grandparents (“Because I live with my grandmother, people sometimes think she is my mother. She’s not. She’s my everything.”)—O’Leary’s story paints a varied and celebratory picture of the many ways there are for a family to be. Leng’s illustrations add richness and texture to the simple prose, with their action-packed and cluttered scenes that suggest a marvellous mess of abundance (which, of course, is love).
 Great perspective from teacher/librarian/parent at Front Porch Librarian.
What I love – and what sets this book apart from some of the other family books out there – is the child’s initial nervousness. Unsure what the other students will make of her family, she quickly realizes that all of her classmates have different sorts of families – there is no standard, no one kind of family. Tapping into that childlike insecurity of oh, no, what will everyone else think makes this story so real. Concluding it with the understanding that all of us are unique, as are the families in which we belong, makes this story so authentic. 

Lovely write-up by Helen Kubiw at Can Lit for Little Canadians.

Though I know, and children do too, that not all families are perfect or happy or supportive, Sara O'Leary's book celebrates families in all their forms–big, small, alike, different, blended, separated, adopting, fostering–as worthy of note, eclectic as they may be.  Her narration is a universal one of acceptance and appreciation for families of all kinds.  The sweetness of her message is matched page by page with Qin Leng's illustrations of children and parents of assorted colours and shapes, economic backgrounds and interests. The lightness of Qin Leng's lines and the whimsy of her colour and shape help portray a diversity of families that are as fluid as they are depicted. 
As always, I'm very grateful to writers like Kerry, Mary, and Helen who take the time to talk about children's books with such care and attention.