Jason Tharp’s It’s Okay to be a Unicorn is a delightful picture book about a creative and kind unicorn, Cornelius J. Sparklesteed, hiding his identity in a town of horses with irrational beliefs about unicorns. The town, Hoofington, bans unicorns, but is otherwise warm and welcoming. Cornelius makes fabulous hats for the town’s citizens and, as a result, is asked by the mayor to perform in the town’s holiday festival Hoofapalooza. The catch: the mayor requests Cornelius make “the most UN-UNICORNY hat” he can. Along with preparing for his own act, Cornelius inspires many of his friends to create even more fantastic art, songs, and even baked goods. Continue reading
And Tango Makes Three (2005), written by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell and illustrated by Henry Cole, is a Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers publication. The book is based on an event that took place at Central Park Zoo. Two male penguins, Roy and Silo, raised a chick together. It made the American Library Association’s most banned book list eight times between 2006 and 20017, in the years 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2014, and 2017. Censors, most often moralistic parents, were and continue to be concerned that the book is homosexual propaganda.
The Generous Jefferson Bartleby Jones (1991) is a delightfully quirky children’s picture book, written by Forman Brown and illustrated by Leslie Trawin. Outrageous rhymes and illustrations work together to communicate the story of Jefferson Bartleby Jones who has an unfortunately lengthy name but a fabulous family. He spends three days of the week living with his dads, and the remaining four days with his mom. Continue reading
The very odd “What’s ‘gay’?” asked Mae (2018) written by Brian McNaught and illustrated by Dave Woodford, tracks a conversation two children have with a variety of birds about the meaning of the word ‘gay.’ Beyond the awkward set-up—Mae asks her cousin Ray what ‘gay’ means and birds respond—the text is poorly formatted, and the illustrations do not reflect a consistent style. The short book is jarring and uncomfortable to read aloud. Although the message of acceptance is commendable, this short picture book isn’t a good vehicle. Continue reading
Tiger Flowers (1994)*, written by Patricia Quinlan and illustrated by Janet Wilson, is an emotionally engaging story told from the point of view of a boy who loses his uncle and his uncle’s partner from illnesses related to HIV/AIDS. The warm and accessible picture book directly engages HIV/AIDS but has a more subtle approach to addressing homosexuality.
Readers are introduced to the young boy, Joel, as his sister wakes him up to ask about their uncle Michael. Joel reminds her that Michael has died. Continue reading