When my manuscript was first reviewed by PJ Library (www.pjlibrary.org), I was struck by one of the reviewers comments, "we love that you have a single mom in the story." It was funny because I never put a single mom in the manuscript-at all. In fact, in the pre-edited version, the mother was pregnant when she and her husband decided to move out of the city. That story line got nixed because there were too many competing issues in one children's book.
As the manuscript became more streamlined, so did the father's role. In my mind, however, I viewed him as a devoted father who travels for work, a road warrior as is the case in my own true family life where spur of the moment decisions typically fall to me during the day. It struck me that while I assumed that role in my writers mind, those reading it assumed she was single. More importantly, they wanted her to be a single mom which is interesting in its own right.
The world of Jewish children's literature is certainly evolving, because in order to survive,it has to be relevant. The conventional family unit has changed dramatically over a decade and thus, Jewish children's literature has slowly begun to reflect that the typical nuclear family is anything but typical. I would go as far to say that atypical is the new normal.
We see working mothers and stay home dads, single, gay,and bi racial parents along with children of different ethnicities,all rightfully trying to carve out Jewish family lives and identities. If Jewish identity is just as important to those who may not hail from a "typical" family, then shouldn't art imitate life in the literature they read to their kids? And, if art imitates life, and atypical is the new normal, then what an exciting time to be a writer with so many possibilities for creative stories within reach.