Annie’s Plaid Shirt (2015) is the cleverly crafted tale of a plaid shirt loving girl whose mother doesn’t quite understand how important her shirt is to her identity. Written by Stacy B. Davids, a clinical psychologist, and warmly illustrated by Rachel Balsaitis, this text earns four thumbs up from me and my three-year-old. In fact, he’s made me read it so many times it felt like a betrayal to pick it up on my own to write a review!
Written and illustrated by Daniel W. Vandever, “Fall in Line, Holden!” (2017), subtly references the American government’s forceful separation of indigenous children from their families, community, and culture. Sent to boarding schools, indigenous children were required to adopt Western names, hairstyles, language, and culture in a violent effort at assimilation. Vandever focuses the story on the rebellious spirit of a child who refuses to fall into line, highlighting the inability of powerful groups to stomp out resistance.
I was initially attracted to Gwendolyn Brooks’ collection of poems, Bronzeville Boys and Girls, because I enjoy the author’s work for adult audiences. I was not disappointed. Originally published in 1956, when depictions of African Americans in children’s literature were even more dismal than they are now, Brooks managed to create an assortment of poems that represent children and childhood complexly and with dignity and humor. She carefully walks the line between representing relatable emotions and experiences and refusing to abandon the specificity of the urban black community represented.
Cheryl Kilodavis’s My Princess Boy (2009) is a non-fiction picture book based on her experiences raising her gender creative son. The illustrations are sweetly drawn by Suzanne DeSimone who depicts the cast of brown-skinned family members frolicking on rambling green hills over a cotton candy pink background. It is a pretty book, and an accessible didactic read to enjoy with very young audiences. In fact, I started reading this one with my child when he was only 18-months old. However, it is also appropriate for older children, although there are many books, including Eileen Kiernan-Johnson’s Roland Humphrey is Wearing a WHAT? (2013), Sarah Hoffman’s Jacob’s New Dress (2014), and Christine Baldacchino’s Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress (2014), which I would recommend instead for the five and up crowd. Continue reading
Marcus Ewert’s 10,000 Dresses is the story of Bailey, a transgender girl whose family members insist she is a boy even though she knows she’s a girl. Rex Ray illustrates the text, providing the reader access to Bailey’s psychic life by depicting her dreams and thoughts. The only disappointing part of the text is the orange-tint to Bailey’s skin, a color that connotes quite differently in 2018 than it did upon the books original publication in 2008. Continue reading
The first person narrative opens with an image of two boys holding hands while riding bikes. Oblivious to the world around them, the boys’ activity literally stops traffic, disrupting the normative flow of the adult world, much to the chagrin of the scowling drivers depicted in unmoving vehicles behind them. The text that accompanies Tallec’s illustration reads: “He always holds my hand./ It’s true./ Really tight.” Continue reading