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Remember Daddy and his roommate Frank, who challenged politicians, parents, and school board members alike in the children’s book Daddy’s Roommate? Well, congratulations are in order.
In Daddy’s Wedding (Alyson Wonderland, $15.95), Michael Willhoite’s picture-book sequel, Daniel and Frank make it official. Not by legal standards, of course—they aren’t in Hawaii, the only state to recognize same-sex marriage—but in the eyes of their community. This volume, like Daddy’s Roommate, is narrated with studied naiveté by Daddy’s open-minded, some might say air-headed son, Nick.
In the first book, Nick calmly explained that “Daddy and his roommate Frank live together,/Work together,/…Sleep together,/Shave together,/And sometimes even fight together.” That sleeping together bit riled parents and teachers in Queens, N.Y., who bounced Roommate and Lesléa Newman’s Heather Has Two Mommies from two proposed sex-ed curricula. In Wedding, Nick gets to pose a controversial question: “Can men get married to each other?” “We call it a commitment ceremony, Nick,” Frank hastily replies. Nick, full of all-American zeal, agrees to be their best man.
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Daddy and Frank aren’t rushing into this. Daddy’s Roommate was published in 1990, so they’ve had six years to contemplate their future together. In those six years, Nick’s mother evidently got over her divorce and remarried, too, so she isn’t bitter. She and her new husband bring a present to the festivities, which are also attended by Daddy’s own parents, bless their hearts. Nothing could be more wholesome.
The big event takes place in Daddy and Frank’s back yard, and is officiated by “Reverend Powell,” a Mama Cass look-alike in a tie-dyed muumuu (she’s evidently Episcopalian). The men’s matching tuxes, the rainbow-hued balloons, and the frilly white cake with two grooms on top are as conventional as anything a heterosexual couple could dream up. And that’s the point. Willhoite surely realizes that this book will be read by more shocked adults than curious children, and he adopts a nauseating gee-whiz style. The naughty family dog gets into the wedding cake (“Clancy’s a great dog, but he sure can get in the way!” Nick exclaims), and Nick pipes up that “we all drank punch and ate until we almost busted” at the reception. This squeaky-cleanness is like nails on a chalkboard, more so for those who find the material objectionable.
Willhoite promotes multiculturalism in the same unsubtle way. Nick has a young Asian-American friend and an African-American friend, and the wedding guests include people of many ages, races, and presumably, sexual persuasions. The only guests missing, in fact, are Heather’s two mommies. Maybe those two have something special planned, with the Defense of Marriage Act in mind.
—Nathalie op de Beeck