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
Jesse’s Dream Skirt (1979) is a Lollipop Power, Inc. publication written by Bruce Mack and illustrated by Marian Buchanan. The opening image depicts a semi-circle of ethnically diverse men in traditional cultural attire framing a young boy wrapped in a sheet. The text reads: “There are and were and always will be boys who wear dresses and skirts and things that whirl, twirl, flow and glow.”
Image and text position the young boy, Jesse, as part of a long line of boys and men who wear dresses and skirts. Although not a very enlightened approach to history or genealogy, the awkward first impression shouldn’t detract from the rest of this very good picture book.
Saturday is Patty Day (1993), written by Lesléa Newman and illustrated by Annette Hegel, is one of the earliest children’s picture books to deal with lesbian parenting and divorce. Newman does a wonderful job creating a teachable text that accounts for the challenges of seperation. I particularly appreciate her sensitive focus on the feelings of Frankie, the young child whose parents are divorcing. At every turn, the story rings true, and even 25+ years after it was originally published, Saturday is Patty Day is a good book to support parents, lesbian or not, in helping their children process divorce. Continue reading