'Heather Has Two Mommies' comes out again

Story highlights

  • Children's book shows a positive portrayal of two-mom family
  • Book was one of the most challenged in 1993 and 1994
  • An updated version is being issued a little more than 25 years after initial publication

(CNN)The groundbreaking book for children with two mommies started with a conversation on a sidewalk.

More than 25 years ago, Amy Jacobson was frustrated that no books existed to explain her family to her 18-month-old daughter, Sarah.
Sarah was about to move from a home-based day care to a professionally run day care in Northampton, Massachusetts, and Jacobson and her partner (now wife) Lynn Zashin knew other children would start asking questions about her family structure.
    "My concern as a protective mother was that kids were going to ask her questions about her family, and she wouldn't know what to say," said Jacobson. "And there were no tools to help her. It became clear to me there needed to be resources."
    Spotting local writer and poet Leslea Newman walking in town one day, Jacobson approached her and asked if she knew anyone who could write a book about two mommies. Newman, now the author of more than 65 works for adults and children, had not yet written a children's book.
    Inspired by that conversation with Jacobson, Newman decided to write it herself.
    An updated version of "Heather Has Two Mommies has just been released.
    That's how "Heather Has Two Mommies" was born. Newman wrote the book in a matter of weeks, and Diana Souza did the illustrations. Newman couldn't get a mainstream publisher, so she and friend Tzivia Gover, a desktop publisher, co-published the book in December 1989. Black and white illustrations were all they could afford.
    Protests ignited after Alyson Publications picked up the book for wider publication, which caught Newman off-guard. (Alyson had previously published "Daddy's Roommate," a book by Michael Willhoite about a divorced dad who moves in with his male partner.)
    "It was challenged and burned ... and read in the Congressional Record," she said. "It just blew my mind."
    "That's not what I set out to do. I set out to write a book because a lesbian mom stopped me on the street and said 'I need a book for families like ours.' "
    A little more than 25 years later, an updated "Heather Has Two Mommies" with new color illustrations by Laura Cornell is being released by Candlewick Press on March 24. This time around, Newman hopes there are no protests or denouncements by members of Congress or local school boards banning the book in protest.
    A family headed by two mothers is now common enough that Rosie O'Donnell, Sara Gilbert, Wanda Sykes and even country star Chely Wright make news wh