S. Bear Bergman’s Is That for a Boy or a Girl? (2015)

Is That For a Boy or a Girl?

Is That for a Boy or a Girl? (2015) is a Flamingo Press publication written by S. Bear Bergman and illustrated by Rachel Dougherty. This fun picture book challenges gender policing by proclaiming that children should be free of needless restrictions.

Each two-page spread is a brief snapshot of a child who troubles the binary gender system, which tries to force children into tidy categories by regulating thoughts, desires, and behaviors. The diverse cast of characters, beautifully illustrated by Dougherty, are not interested in consolidating their identities to meet dominant social expectations. In this book there are no boy or girl toys, behaviors, or clothes. There are just children who know (or are happily trying to figure out) who they are and what they like.

I appreciate both creators’ investment in inclusivity. Dougherty illustrates a racially diverse cast of characters and includes a child in a wheelchair.

This is a wonderful book for adults and children to read together, many adults will likely be uncomfortable, recognizing that they have participated in gender policing. But, this book addresses children first and foremost. It invites children to consider queerness as a possibility. It is this that I appreciate most. In general, Flamingo Press publishes picture books that address queer kids, and that is amazing important work. Even as LGBTQ children books grow in number, they tend to be written about queer kids, not necessarily for them. A wonderful book, one of many by a wonderful press!

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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