James LaCroce’s self-published children’s picture book, Chimpy Discovers His Family (2010), is the story of a misfit chimp who prefers banana facials to banana fights. He meets a gay couple, Juan and Benji, while they vacation on his “island.”
The couple takes him on several adventures and soon decide to adopt him, however, the adoption agency rejects their appeal, because they are gay.
Unable to adopt the chimp, the very sad couple continue on their whirlwind vacation, leaving “the island” for Italy. The clever chimp and his best friend, Matthew Chicken, plan to go to Italy and find the men who left Chimpy behind, because, after all, they love him very much! Of course, the world has other plans. Chimpy and Matthew Chicken are captured by pirates who want to eat them! They escape from the pirates and are able to swim to Venice where a gondolier directs them to Benji and Jose. The men are given permission to legally adopt Chimpy and they all head to San Francisco together – a queer family indeed.
This is a strange little book. After reading an interview with the author, it seems that the chimp is a character he created to represent queer resilience, which helps explain the reason he is abandoned by Benji and Juan and must proactively find them. However, being able to make a little more sense of this awkward tale doesn’t improve it’s quality.
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!