by Moira Scicluna Zahra and Mark Scicluna.
Little Oliver is out for a walk with his mother Elena, and he is asking all sorts of questions about the things that he sees around him as he is trying to find the meaning of the word ‘love’. When they arrive home, they are greeted by the boy’s other mother, Bettina. Mamà, allura din imħabba? is a first for Malta in that it is a children’s book, in Maltese, about a same-sex parents: two mums and their son. It’s a story about love in all its facets and forms - from love of animals, to love and passion for one’s work and art - and is of course grounded in the notion of diversity and acceptance of love in whatever form it manifests itself. The book which is co-founded by the National Literacy Agency, is written and illustrated by Mark Scicluna, award-winning illustrator of the De Molizz and Jake Cassar series, and Moira Zahra who forms part of the Tikka Qari team. The author and illustrator use textual and visual metaphors to stimulate conversation in a non-confrontational manner. The result, is a vibrant picture book that helps children understand the concept of how love comes in different forms smoothly, without any need of excessive explanations. It also allows for parents to raise and discuss the theme of different family structures. The illustrations are grounded in a very typical Maltese context, which allows young Maltese readers to immediately identify with the setting, making it easier for them to visualise the story. The idea for the story was inspired by the authors’ young niece and nephew, who “ask a lot of questions”. Their idea was for children to read a story that wasn't specifically trying to educate them about the different kinds of families. “This is why we chose the subject of 'love' and its various dimensions,” Moira Scicluna Zahra said. The challenge was to explain a complex and abstract subject such as ‘love' to a child in simple answers. “We did not want to treat same-sex families as something different than the norm, but rather as one more type of family love,” she said. The book was inked in traditional brush-pen and paper, giving it a traditional texture and subtle ink bleeds that contrast with the digital colouring. This is another ground-breaking Merlin Publishers picture book which tackles the sensitive issue of same gender relationships, at a point when parliament will be discussing gay marriage law. Merlin Publishers Director Dr Chris Gruppetta said: “It wasn’t an obvious choice of manuscript. But the subject, we felt, called for a sensitive narrative exploration that would gently stimulate children to discuss different forms of family. It felt important, to us, that the family in the book was depicted as a very regular family, going about the daily routines and chores we all do in our everyday lives.” Mamà, allura din imħabba? has no fixed target age. It is ideal both for reading to children when these are still very young, and eventually for reading by children themselves when they are slightly older. It is available from all leading bookshops or online directly from www.merlinpublishers.com