Before Heather there was Emily, and instead of two mommies she had Lots of Mommies. Published by Lollipop Power, Inc. in 1983, Lots of Mommies is boldly written by Jane Severance, author of When Megan Went Away (1979). Severance’s work is a critical part of LGBTQ history that provides a look into lesbian family formations decades before Modern Family delivered sanitized images of same-sex parents to a mainstream audience. Continue reading
Benny Doesn’t Like to Be Hugged (2017), written by the brilliant and prolific Zetta Elliott and richly illustrated by Purple Wong, is a sweet and accessible story about the relationship between a boy with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and his sister. At the end of the book, Elliott provides a detailed note about her investment in creating inclusive children’s books. She discusses wanting to write a book about autism with a Black male protagonist because society takes such a punitive stance on Black boys. The beautiful brown-skinned children Wong illustrates, as well as the diverse cast of characters both children interact with throughout the story, are wonderfully inclusive of different abilities, religions, and races. Benny Doesn’t Like to Be Hugged is a much needed text that celebrates difference and subtly shatters stereotypes while introducing a young autistic boy to readers through the eyes of his loyal and loving sister. Continue reading
If I only had two adjectives to describe The Doctor with an Eye for Eyes, written by Julia Finley Mosca and illustrated by Daniel Rieley, I would, without hesitation, choose witty and bold. The book’s cover features disembodied eyeballs floating on a purplish background as well as a woman with brown skin and long dark hair holding an ophthalmoscope. It’s a wonderful introduction to a picture book that is a little silly, a little serious, and brilliantly engaging. The book is one of a small handful in Innovation Press’s Amazing Scientists Series, which provides socially relevant biographies of scientists who have overcome structural inequality to become experts in their fields. All the books in the series are written by Mosca and illustrated by Rieley providing a sense of aesthetic and lyrical coherence to the collection. Continue reading
Jen Wojtowicz’s thin square-shaped comic Bunny Girl feels like home and reads like a broken heart doing the hard work of healing. On the cover, a sweet little bunny with brown fur holds a red balloon as a single tear drops from her eye. The dedication on the inside of the cover reads: “For My Husband and Our Children.” The story that unfolds is deeply personal and its creation was clearly a labor of love. A note on the inside back cover explains that the comic is “about love transcending death and our continued relationship with those we love who are in spirit.” Bunny Girl explores grief from a child’s perspective, that of Wojtowicz’s eldest daughter who lost her little sister, and it does this work beautifully.
I’ve been researching LGBTQ children’s literature for the past two years and my article, For the Little Queers: Imagining Queerness in “New” Queer Children’s Literature, is now available in the Journal of Homosexuality.
I love the cozy, whimsical, slightly melancholy, illustrations in The Boy Who Grew Flowers (2005), which is cleverly written by Jen Wojtowicz and beautifully illustrated by Steve Adams. The cover depicts a pinkish boy with blushing cheeks, flowers in one hand, green shoes in the other. This is a love story about two children who are equally kind and, as we learn at the book’s end, share one of the same differences, which makes them perfectly normal to each other, and perfect for each other.