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.
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!