Vanita Oelschlager’s A Tale of Two Mommies (2011)

Ebook cover imageA Tale of Two Mommies (2011), written by Vanita Oelschlager and illustrated by Mike Blanc, is an affirming story about a little boy and his two moms.

Three small, racially diverse children enjoy a day at the beach. One of the children, a little boy, has tawny beige skin, another is a girl with suntanned skin and red hair, the boy with two mommies has medium brown skin, curly-hair, and big brown eyes. The two moms’ faces are never shown but they both have pale skin with pink undertones.

The little boy with two moms is bombarded with excited questions from his friends who are curious about what activities his momma does with him and what activities his mommy does with him. He answers their sometimes very silly questions with ease, demonstrating that his moms have all the important stuff like cake baking and boo-boo kissing covered.

A Tale of Two Mommies is a fun book. The colors are bright and sunny like the day at the beach the characters are enjoying. It’s an accessible book with a clever lyricism that makes it fun to read aloud. It will make a solid addition to family libraries of very young readers who are sure to giggle along with the characters as they find answers to important questions like which mom is the best kite flying partner.

I accessed a review copy through NetGalley.

Laurel Dykstra’s Uncle Aiden (2005)

Uncle Aiden (2005), written and illustrated by Laurel Dykstra, might just be my favorite gay uncle book. And, there are probably as many gay uncle books as there are books about boys who wear dresses, which is to say competition is fierce.

The first-person narrative is relayed from the point-of-view Anna Maria Flannigan Cruz. She has a lot of aunts, uncles, and cousins, but red-haired and pierced Uncle Aiden is her favorite. He plays pirates and tea party. He introduces Anna Maria to all his boyfriends, and he takes her to Pride. He’s wise and willing to learn Spanish.

Anna Maria wishes everyone could have an uncle like hers.

It’s a fun book and very accessible to even the youngest readers. I appreciate the incorporation of cultural diversity, eschewal of gender stereotypes, and inclusion of polyamory.

I like Anna Maria and Uncle Aiden, and I think you will too! But, it’s not easy to find so if you stumble upon a copy pick it up!

Tomie dePaola’s Bonjour, Mr. Satie (1991)

Return to product information

Bonjour, Mr. Satie (1991) by Tomie dePaola is the story of two children, Rosalie and Conrad, their uncle, Mr. Satie, and his “companion,” Ffortusque Ffollet, Esq.

When the two world travelers visit their family, they bring Paris to America through French cuisine, a smattering of French words, and enchanting stories of the artists, authors, and other characters they befriend in Paris.

The story manages to be kid-friendly and subtly sophisticated through references to Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso, and Henri Matisse. This is an early and quite casual representation of homosexuality that is both campy and cozy. It remains well worth the read nearly THIRTY years after it was originally published and is widely available used.

Jennifer Carr’s Be Who You Are (2010)

Be Who You Are by Jennifer Carr (2010-11-23)Be Who You Are (2010), written by Jennifer Carr and illustrated by Ben Rumback, explores a young transgender girl’s transition. Although Hope’s sex assignment was male, she always felt like a girl. She tells her very accepting parents while she is quite young, and they support her. However, Hope isn’t comfortable being as open about her gender identity at school, and her gender is repeatedly policed by a teacher who sees her as a boy. This happens when Hope draws a picture of herself as a girl and when she stands in line with other girls. When Hope shares her discomfort at school with her parents, they become advocates. They introduce her to a therapist who encourages her to share her feelings about gender. Hope soon begins to transition; first growing her hair long, and then wearing girl clothes more and more frequently. Like her parents, Hope’s younger brother becomes a supportive ally.

This is one of a small handful of books about transgender children. Carr is a parent-advocate of a transgender child and Be Who You Are is unambiguously trans* affirming throughout. It provides an accessible trans* narrative for young readers.

I prefer Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings’ I am Jazz, which delivers the same story but is co-authored by a transgender child and told in the first-person. However, this book predates I am Jazz by several years and depicts its important lesson of transgender acceptance very nicely.

Babette Cole’s Mummy Never Told Me

Mummy Never Told Me by Cole, Babette [04 March 2004]Mummy Never Told Me (2003) was written and illustrate by the prolific Babette Cole and published in the UK by Jonathon Cape. The story and illustrations are outrageous but oddly charming like much of Cole’s work. This narrative is told from the point-of-view of a curious little boy who realizes life is full of mystery and his mummy has been keeping secrets.

Text and images pair well and follow a predictable format. The boy asks a question that stretches across a two-page spread. The first image depicts him clearly pondering the topic and the second is a silly and surprising illustrated answer.

For instance, in one two-page spread he asks: “what is my tummy button for…”. The whimsical illustrations paired with the text depict him touching his “tummy button.” On the facing page, his naked mother has just given birth and a doctor holds the baby away from her body to emphasize the umbilical cord.

In another two-page spread, the young narrator ponders why he must go to school, since “Mummy was expelled from hers.” An image of a young, very pregnant girl, walking away from a school with a suitcase in hand suggests why. A sign hanging at the front of the school says: “St Ursula’s Convent for NICE Young Ladies.”

Other awkward content includes the boy’s parents jumping naked on their bed and an image of them skinny dipping while out on a date.

Although LGBTQ content is touched on, it is minimal. Some women fall in love with women and some men with men. The narrator is sure he will figure it out one day.

The campy book seems to barely acknowledge its primary audience. Although quite funny, I can only see giving it tongue-in-cheek as a shower gift you never expect your expecting pal to read to her child.

Tommie dePaola’s Oliver Button is a Sissy (1979)

Hardcover Oliver Button Is a Sissy BookTommie dePaola’s Oliver Button is a Sissy (1979) tells the story of a little boy bullied at school and discouraged at home because he doesn’t enjoy typical boy things like playing ball. Oliver would rather be picking flowers and playing with paper dolls.

Realizing their son is not going to take up football anytime soon, Oliver’s parents enroll him in dance. He is so good his teacher recommends he enter a local talent show. Although he doesn’t win, he builds some confidence and his parents learn to be proud of him for the things he is good at, not the things they wish he was good at. In other words, when he takes the stage, they are better able to see him. The kids at school seem to have a change of heart as well.

In 2019, images of gender expansive children are available in several children’s picture books, including Cheryl Kilodavis’s My Princess Boy and Christine Baldacchino’s Morris and the Tangerine Dress. To a lesser extent, characters who embrace a clear camp aesthetic have also made their way to children’s picture books like Lesléa Newman’s The Boy Who Cried Fabulous and Helga Bansch’s Odd Bird Out. However, in 1979 dePaola’s book provided children with a new way to imagine being a boy, uncoupled from rough-and-tumble masculinity.

Although it’s forty-years-old as of 2019, Oliver Button is a Sissy has aged quite well. Narrow visions of masculinity still shape playground gender policing and parents are still too often slow to embrace effeminate sons.

DePaola tells the story in an accessible style sure to engage young readers. His illustrations pair well with the story, showing what he tells in words.

I highly recommend this as an addition to personal and school libraries. Oliver is more subtly gender nonconforming than the children depicted in more recent books, which provides an important representation for children who might like dolls, but not so much dresses.

Benjamin’s And Baby Makes Four (2009)

And Baby Makes Four, written by Judith Benjamin with photographic images by Judith Freedman, was published in 2009 by Motek Press. Lesbian moms and their young daughter prepare to welcome a new baby into their family.

The story is told in the first-person from the point-of-view of the couple’s young daughter. At the beginning of the short book, the young girl learns her mom is pregnant and that she will be a big sister. Pictures of her pregnant mother as well as ultrasound images show what the story tells.

Once her parents bring the new baby home, she begins to adjust to the cute but loud and attention-hogging new infant. This adjustment isn’t seamless. She has to get used to the good and not-so-good of being a big sister.

By the end of the brief book she has settled into her new life and enjoys her role in the family.

This is a good story to help young children process a new addition to their home! It is well-paced and accessible, helping children as young as three begin to grasp the changes that will occur.

I do not like the use of personal photographs in books. It feels too intimate; a reminder that you are clearly reading someone else’s story. I prefer the abstraction of illustrations because it makes it easier for readers to “step into” a story, so to speak. However, And Baby Makes Four does fill a niche and can be a useful aid to discussing the addition of new siblings.