We Are Family by Oliver Sykes

We Are Family – at a glance

The School Reading Lists’ five word review: Family helps us through anything.
Children’s book title: We Are Family: Six Kids and a Super-Dad – a poetry adventure.
Children’s author: Oliver Sykes.
Children’s illustrator: Ian Morris.
Genre: Children’s poetry.
Published by: Otter-Barry Books.
ISBN: 9781915659248.
Recommended for children aged: 7+ year-olds.
First published: Paperback May 2024.
This children’s book is ideal for: poetry lovers, members of large, busy families who can empathise with the chaos, fun, frustration and love that can come with this and, most importantly, any reader with a Super Dad themselves..

We Are Family by Oliver Sykes

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Our review:

When Oliver Sykes was eight years old, he witnessed his mum leaving the family unit by choice and hasn’t seen her since. Packed with humour and poignant moments, We Are Family takes you on a poetic journey through the author’s childhood following the departure of Mum from the lives of Sykes, his five siblings and their Super Dad. Categorised into different themes, these poems take you through the ups and downs of living in a busy household with a single parent who is doing their utmost to provide everything you need.

Sykes begins with a poem describing the day their family’s lives changed and how his dad rose to meet the challenge of raising six children alone. As you move through the book, the poems vary from short to long, funny to serious and brilliantly convey every emotion that was experienced during the author’s childhood. We learn about the financial hardships faced, the struggle to put food on the table and the everyday dilemmas they came across. But we also learn about the immense love shared between siblings and the amazing strength of their dad as he works several jobs and teaches his children about responsibility and how it feels to be loved.

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A few highlights include the hilarious section called ‘Dad’s Most Dangerous Dishes’ which includes ‘Inside Our Bowls of Rabbit Stew’ and ‘I Hate Nettle Soup!’; the joy described in the author’s first experience of receiving a school lunch from a kind midday supervisor in the hard-hitting but cheerful ‘My First-Ever Free School Meal’; and the moving and reflective concluding poem ‘As Rich As Me’. Whilst Sykes and his family may have faced some tough times, their dad did the best job he could and it was enough. Whilst they may not have had a lot of money, they still felt rich in what they did have.

These poems are told alongside beautiful illustrations by Ian Morris, which portray the emotions of the family unit brilliantly. Some show the anger felt when the last doughnut is taken from the plate and the stress and anxiety felt by Dad struggling to keep on top of the bills, whilst others show the enjoyment of peaceful solitude when the busy and chaotic home feels too much and the celebration of receiving new clothes kindly donated by neighbours.

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Our verdict:

We Are Family is a delightful and moving celebration of how a family can comes together in hard times and overcome the adversities they face together as a unit. Whilst the poems are easy to read and flow from the page, if you look more deeply, you see a tale of a loving family overcoming loss, battling grief, working together to survive and showing thanks and gratitude to each other throughout.

This is a fantastic book which shows strength, resilience and, most of all, the love of a family.

Many thanks to Otter-Barry Books for the review copy.

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If you like We Are Family by Oliver Sykes you might also like: our reviews of Outside In by Daniel Thompson, The Shape of Rainbows by Neal Zetter, illustrated by Will Hughes, The Star Whale by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Petr Horáček and A Passing On Of Shells by Simon Lamb.

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About Jen Radford

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Having been a primary teacher for over ten years, I have always been eager to engage children I have worked with in reading and to actively be a ‘reading teacher’ in the classroom and outside of it. I truly believe that a love of reading can unlock so many doors and I aim to continue to inspire children to read for pleasure for the rest of my career. | Reviews by Jen Radford