Patricia Quinlan’s Tiger Flowers (1994)

Tiger Flowers (1994)*, written by Patricia Quinlan  and illustrated by Janet Wilson, is an emotionally engaging story told from the point of view of a boy who loses his uncle and his uncle’s partner from illnesses related to HIV/AIDS. The warm and accessible picture book directly engages HIV/AIDS but has a more subtle approach to addressing homosexuality.

Readers are introduced to the young boy, Joel, as his sister wakes him up to ask about their uncle Michael. Joel reminds her that Michael has died.

After this scene, the reader gets snippets of memories, familial experiences shared by Joel, Michael, and sometimes Michael’s “friend” Peter, who passed away before Michael became ill, prompting him to move in with Joel and his family.

I appreciate the message about family represented in the text. Michael is an integral part of Joel’s life and when he becomes ill, he is taken in and cared for by his family. Although twenty-five years old, the story has aged well. I would have appreciated it if Peter’s relationship to Michael was identified, not simply insinuated, but few readers will fail to identify the nature of their relationship.

*republished in 2005 by Fitzhenry and Whiteside

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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