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Renee Bolla
The Truth About Stepmoms
Renee Bolla, author

Picture Book; General Fiction (including literary and historical); (Market)

Stepmoms are evil. Stepmoms are sneaky. Stepmoms are witches in disguise…or so you heard. But what if all you heard is far from the truth? Join the adventure of a stepdaughter and stepmother as they discover the true magic of family in The Truth About Stepmoms. Through heart and humor, The Truth About Stepmoms explores the fears and misconceptions that children may have when faced with new family dynamics. The story follows a young girl’s humorous yet heartfelt investigation as she attempts to uncover the truth about her new stepmom, Via. But to her surprise, she discovers that Via does not change into the wicked figure she heard about from friends, books, and movies but remains the same caring, fun-loving, and kind-hearted individual who brings love and joy to her life in unexpected ways. The Truth About Stepmoms celebrates the precious bond that can grow between children and their stepmothers, debunking common stereotypes and fostering a positive understanding of blended families. It captures the essence of love and connection, while embracing the journey of change.
“I heard stepmoms are evil,” a bespectacled young girl declares at the start of Bolla’s humorous, wholesome picture book, which finds its narrator grappling with frightening rumors and myths. She’s heard that stepmothers have propensity for greed, use excessive hot water in the shower, and could possibly be “witches in disguise.” Though the girl has enjoyed a warm relationship with Via, the girlfriend of her father’s who has now become her stepmom, she’s worried that Via’s new status will not just mark an end to their days of “epic” dance parties and make-believe hair salon fun. She’s worried Via will turn into “Momzilla”—and that she’ll lose the Via she’s come to love. But then the child’s father does the unthinkable, leaving her alone with Via for a whole day. The kid is determined to figure out exactly what kind of stepmom she’s up against.

Like Bolla’s other picture books (Finding Bunny and Imagine That), The Truth About Stepmoms takes a lighthearted approach to serious difficulties children face, but it also distills the complex, emotional dynamics of blended families into an accessible narrative for kids and adults alike. Jack Button’s bright, expressive illustrations add a cozy warmth and soft-edged glow to Bolla’s story, and they also illuminate the child’s thriving imagination and sunny home life, which includes an exceptionally loyal (and charmingly designed) house cat and a stepmom who isn’t nearly as bad as the fairytales would have the child believe.

In fact, Via proves to be the kind of stepmom who makes pancakes with extra chocolate chips for dinner, leaves funny notes in lunch boxes, and is “always there to give [...] a tight hug” whenever the child is feeling down. Families seeking a gentle, silly, and well-illustrated tale introducing the concept of stepparents will find this an excellent choice. Rather than a witch, the truth is that stepmoms “will be here to add a little extra love … every step of [the] way.”

Takeaway: Gorgeously illustrated story that busts myths about stepmoms

Comparable Titles: Suzanne Lang’s Families, Families, Families!, Elizabeth Blake’s Greenbean.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A