An Origin Story

My name is Jennifer and I’m a 30-something with a doctorate in Cultural Studies and a MA in Literary Studies. I also have a toddler. I didn’t give children’s picture books much thought until I was pregnant; until then my research focused on “grown-up” culture: films, literature, even pornography. But, as a Lefty mama with a PhD I understood the role cultural texts, like picture books, play in shaping how we perceive ourselves, the world, and all the people in it (and the animals, environments, ideas, ext.). I wanted the hours a week I knew we’d spend reading to help my child understand the most important lesson I think a parent can teach – you are good if you do good.

This blog reviews some of our favorite children’s books. I hope it helps other parents find awesome books! Feel free to email recommendations, comments, and questions to raisethemrighteous@gmail.com.

For Publishers and Authors: I review diverse, LGBTQ* inclusive, and social justice themed children’s picture books, early chapter books, middle grade books, and young adult books. I prefer hard copies (especially for children’s picture books and graphic novels). But, I understand the cost can be prohibitive and accept E-books. *It is currently taking me 4 – 6 weeks to review picture books and 8 – 12 weeks to review MG and YA. Email me with requests at raisethemrighteous@gmail.com.

How to use the blog: Scroll down, discover great books, buy the books, read the books!

Sarah Savage and Fox Fisher’s Are You a Boy or a Girl? (2015)

Are You a Boy or a Girl? (2015), co-written by Sarah Savage and Fox Fisher, who is also the picture book’s illustrator, is the story of nonbinary Tiny. Tiny and their family, who are illustrated with various skin-tones, move to a new home where no one knows Tiny. They experience bullying at their new school, but that’s not the whole story. Continue reading

Maya and Matthew Smith-Gonzalez’s They She He Me: Free to Be (2017)

They She He Me: Free to Be (2017), by Maya and Matthew Smith-Gonzalez, is a celebration of diversity in its many forms. People with different boy-types, skin-tones, and gender expressions are thoughtfully illustrated above a variety of pronouns that are repeated across the two-page spread. The text suggests that gender is not written on the body but is instead a personal identity that can change over time. It seeks to uncouple gender from the body while simultaneously troubling a gender binary. The creators provide lots of useful backmatter that explains gender, pronouns, and the importance of inclusivity. I think this is a lovely teaching aid that will encourage discussions about the social and personal dimensions of gender for all ages. Continue reading

Jase Peeples’ Square Zair Pair (2015)

Cover ImageSquare Zair Pair (2015), written by Jase Peeples and illustrated by Christine Knopp, is a quirky picture book reminiscent of Dr. Seuss. The story takes place in Hanamandoo, a fantasy world inhabited by Zairs. Zairs hatch from eggs that grow from vines. Some are tall and square; others are short and round. Round and square Zairs always form a pair by attaching tails. Continue reading

Isabel Sanchez Vegara’s Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali (Little People, Big Dreams)Muhammad Ali, written by Isabel Sanchez Vegara and illustrated by Brosmind is an inspiring addition to Frances Lincoln Children’s Books’ Little People, BIG DREAMS series. The short and accessible biography takes readers on a fast-paced and informative journey into the life of famous boxer Muhammad Ali. In addition to his boxing fame, the board book acknowledges Ali’s civil rights activism, conversion to Islam, refusal to fight in Vietnam, and post-retirement charity work. Like other books in the series, Muhammad Ali, provides enough detail to be engaging without overwhelming its young audience. I recommend this book for children between 2- and 5-years-old. This will make a valuable addition to personal and school libraries.

Maya Gonzalez’s The Gender Wheel (2017)

The Gender Wheel (2017), written and illustrated by Maya Gonzalez, introduces readers to gender diversity through the concept of a “gender wheel.” Gonzalez’s images are warm and inviting. She illustrates her characters in a range of skin-tones with a variety of gender expressions.

The commendable purpose of the book is to teach children to understand gender outside of a binary model. Continue reading

Robb Pearlman’s Pink is for Boys (2018)

Pink is for Boys (2018), written by Robb Pearlman and illustrated by Eda Kaban works to disrupt the idea that pink is for girls and blue is for boys. It does this through simple prose and bright, fun illustrations. Several colors, including pink, green, blue, and purple, are explored over a pair of two-page spreads. The first spread assures readers that x color is for girls and boys. The second spread reinforces the message. Continue reading

Daniel Kibblesmith’s Santa’s Husband (2017)

Santa's HusbandSanta’s Husband (2017), written by Daniel Kibblesmith and illustrated by A P Quach, reimagines Santa and his partner as an interracial gay couple. Santa Claus, a black man, and his white partner, David, live in the North Pole, check the naughty/nice list twice, and take care of all the reindeer. The idea that some people don’t like a gay black Santa is introduced but it’s noted that people have always imagined Santa in different ways. Continue reading