When You Look Out the Window: How Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin Built a Community (2017)

When You Look Out the Window: How Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin Built a CommunityWhen You Look Out the Window: How Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin Built a Community (2017), written by Gayle E. Pitman and atmospherically illustrated by Christopher Lyon, unfolds in the first person, allowing readers to follow Phyllis and Del as they help transform San Francisco into a LGBTQ*-affirming community.

Pitman moves her reader through time and space by imaginatively structuring the text as a tour of landmarks that can be seen from Phyllis and Del’s home. This technique allows the narrative to feel like an intimate personal story and a historical tale of national significance, and it is, of course, both.

Pitman provides a detailed ‘Reading Guide’ with information about Phyllis and Del’s political involvement in San Francisco, including their early participation in Daughters of Bilitis, which they co-founded with several other women in 1955. The guide also describes each of the landmarks discussed in the picture book. Additionally,  Pitman provides a ‘Note to Parents, Caregivers, and Educators’ that explores the importance of teaching history and culture inclusively.

I highly recommend this book for personal and classroom libraries. Pitman does a wonderful job relaying history accessibly. The text is not too ‘heavy’ with facts; instead focusing on the emotional and physical landscape through cleverly paired text and image. As a result, with the help of the ‘Reading Guide,’ the book can be enjoyed by children from three to nine. This text could easily be worked into lessons about history, biography, geography, or civic engagement.

We need these histories, and I’m glad we have such a creative and capable author bringing them to life.

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!

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