Antonio’s Card, written by Rigoberto González and illustrated by Cecilia Concepción Álvarez, was published in 2005 by Children’s Book Press, a non-profit publisher of multicultural children’s literature. The protagonist, a Latinx boy named Antonio, lives with his mother and her partner, Leslie.
Antonio’s peers make fun of Leslie, a tall woman with a boyish haircut and penchant for paint-splattered overalls. They suggest she looks “like a box of crayons exploded all over her” or “like a rodeo clown.” Antonio doesn’t share this with his mom or Leslie.
As Mother’s Day approaches, Antonio’s class begins to honor the important women in their lives by creating cards. Although Antonio includes Leslie in a picture of his family, he hides the drawing from his schoolmates, aware that his family may look different from theirs. When Antonio finds out the cards will be displayed, he is uncomfortable and finally confides his feelings to his mom. She empowers him to decide if he wants to risk being mocked by inviting Leslie into his school to see the display.
When he begins to think about how important Leslie is to him, his anxiety about being mocked dissipates. He would be sad and lonely without her, and because he loves her, he won’t meet his classmates’ mockery with shame.
This is a beautiful story, expressively illustrated by, Cecilia Concepción Álvarez and poetically narrated by Rigoberto González. I love that it’s a bilingual text that can be shared in Spanish- or English-speaking homes. I also appreciate that Antonio’s mother does not tell him what to do when he shares his experience at school. She does not try to protect him or minimize the risk of pain, but instead offers love and understanding.
I’ve been reviewing many LGBTQ* children’s picture books, and the field is very white, even post-2000. I highly recommend this for school libraries that serve Latinx students, although the sweet and empowering story about letting love lead actions will appeal to students regardless of ethnicity or experience with LGBTQ issues.
This review is part of my “Snapshots of LGBTQ Kid Lit” project. I’m working on a book, The New Queer Children’s Literature: Exploring the Principles and Politics of LGBTQ* Children’s Picture Books, which is under contract with the University Press of Mississippi. Part of my research is identifying and interpreting English-language children’s picture books with LGBTQ* content published in the US and Canada between 1979 and 2019. Follow my blog to follow my journey!