My Strange Shrinking Parents

Zeno Sworder

From the author of the award-winning picture book This Small Blue Dot comes a new tale of a family that doesn’t look like all the others, carrying an enduring message of the transformative power of love, and the shape a life can take.

It goes without saying that all children believe their parents to be strange. Mine were unusual for a different reason . . .

One boy’s parents travel from far-off lands to improve their son’s life. But what happens next is unexpected. What does it mean when your parents are different? What shape does love take? And what happens when your parents sacrifice a part of themselves for you?

In this heartbreaking and heartwarming story, Zeno Sworder reflects on his own migrant parents’ sacrifices to create a universal story about what it means to give to those you love. Drawing from the sacrifices his Chinese mother made to raise her young family in a small country town, Sworder’s drawings are full of beautiful detail and fairytale settings that explore his own journey from child to parent.

With humor and pathos, Sworder reflects on the strange nature of giving and receiving love and celebrates those parents who embrace a hard life for themselves in the hope of a better life for their children. Full of depth and generosity as well as insight and candor, Sworder brings this gorgeous fable to life.


A poignant, fantastical conceit, reminiscent of the work of Shaun Tan… In spare, unflinching prose, Sworder shows just how much [parents are] willing to give up so their son can have what other children have… [His] soft pencil-and-watercolor illustrations, inspired by Japanese woodblock prints, are as rich with emotion and atmosphere as his text.

— The New York Times Book Review

[With] muted colors and stunning, intricately textured illustrations…this deceptively simple tale is laced with profound, beautifully wrought truths… A clever and poignant tribute to the love of all those who made the journey.

— Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Haunting and magical… One of the best takes on the experiences of children of immigrant parents…in a picture book form… A story of truly enduring love… Each piece of this book fits snugly together with every other piece, like a well-constructed puzzle. Simple enough for children to understand. Layered enough for adult readers to appreciate. Strangely perfect.

— Betsy Bird School Library Journal


Zeno Sworder


Zeno Sworder is a writer and artist who lives in Melbourne with his young family. After studying Chinese literature and migration law at university, he ended up as a dishwasher. Later, he went on to work as a journalist, an English language teacher, a consular officer, an advocate for refugees and immigrants, and a jewelry designer. He is a lover of all stationery but has a particular soft spot for pencils. Sworder is the CBCA New Illustrator of the Year 2021, and his first book This Small Blue Dot was a CBCA Notable Book, the winner of the 2021 Australian Book Designers Association's Award for Best Designed Children's Illustrated Book, and the Designers' Choice Children's/Young Adult Book of the Year.