Monicka’s Papa is Tall (2006) and Ryan’s Mom is Tall (2006), written by Heather Jopling and illustrated by Allyson Demoe, were both published by Nickname Press, an independent press founded by the author in 2006 to meet the needs of lesbian and gay families. While she was a surrogate for a gay family Jopling noticed that there were “very few children’s stories that dealt with non-traditional families in a down-to-earth manner.” These books, and a third, also published by Nickname Press, The Not-So-Only Child (2006), written by Jopling and illustrated by Lauren Page Russell, represent Jopling’s attempt to change that by providing lesbian and gay families with stories about same-gender parents. Continue reading
Losing Uncle Tim, written by MaryKate Jordan and illustrated by Judith Friedman, was published by Albert Whitman & Company in 1989. It is narrated in the first person by a boy, Daniel, who is processing the illness and eventual death of his uncle due to an AIDS-related illness.
The story is breathtakingly painful. It beautifully captures the relationship between Daniel and his uncle, Tim, as well as Daniel’s deep emotions. Friedman’s illustrations, which face Jordan’s text, look like snapshots from a photo album. This technique provides a sense of intimacy and urgency as the story progresses. Continue reading
What Are Parents? (2004), written by Kyme and Susan Fox-Lee and illustrated by Randy Jennings, is one example of a surge of books featuring lesbian and gay parents that arose in the early-2000s. It is deliberate and thorough in its depiction of diverse family forms as well as religious and ethnic diversity. Continue reading
Tooth Fairy, You Have Some Explaining to Do! (2019), written by Denise Barry and illustrated by Alejandro Echavez, is a recent Mascot Books publication about a child who loses a tooth and does not get the visit from the tooth fairy they were expecting. The blond, blue-eyed child with rosy pink skin wonders if they did something wrong.
Echavez’s images are silly and sweet. He does a wonderful job breaking with gender stereotypes beyond the character themself. For instance, the protagonist’s messy bedroom has drums and soccer balls as well as pink notebooks and purple stuffed toys. Continue reading
Made by Raffi (2014), written by Craig Pomranz and illustrated by Margaret Chamberlain follows Raffi as he identifies and explores activities that make him happy. The story takes place in the spring, and Chamberlain’s bright illustrations of green grass, pretty flowers, and clear blue skies set the tone of possibility and growth that is thematically explored by Pomranz. Continue reading
Written by Angela Dalton and illustrated by Margarita Sikorshai, If You Look Up to the Sky, is a beautiful story that subtly explores intergenerational love and nurturance as well as the vastness and intimacy of the universe.
The book opens with the narrator telling a story to an unknown listener: “When I was a little girl,/ I used to sit on my grandmother’s lap/ and we would look up to the sky/ and she would say…”. The accompanying warmly illustrated image depicts a young girl with brown skin in a pink dress sitting in the lap of an older brown-skinned woman whose long grey hair is braided. The older woman sits in a rocking chair and they both look up at the sky. Continue reading
Written by Lois Gould and first published by Ms. in 1972, X: A Fabulous Child’s Story, was republished in 1978 by Daughters Publishing Company with illustrations by Jacqueline Chwast. The short story that became a picture book challenges the idea that gender is a natural expression clearly connected to the sexed body. Instead, it suggests that gender is a learned behavior that restricts freedom. Continue reading