A 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
It’s my SIX MONTH BLOGOVERSARY here at RaiseThemRighteous! I began reviewing racially and ethnically diverse, LGBTQ* inclusive, and socially relevant children’s picture books 6 months ago. Then, on January 1, I started reviewing middle grade and young adult books.
I didn’t have many goals for my first 6 months, but I did want to gain 1500 followers across two platforms. And, I did it! I have 1700+ blog followers and 1600+ Twitter followers. I am also on GoodReads.
I put a lot of work into the blog and am so happy it’s becoming a valuable resource for educators, librarians, and parents looking for detailed reviews of books for children and young adults.
I’ve been keeping busy! In 2018, I participated in the Cybils Awards as a Round One Judge for Easy Reader and Early Chapter Books. I really appreciated the opportunity to serve! Then, just a couple days ago, on January 25, I participated in Multicultural Children’s Books Day 2019 as a reviewer!
In the next six months, I am hoping to increase my followers to 2500+ followers on Twitter and another 2500+ on my blog. I think I can do it! I am also probably going to expand my social media presence by working on a Pinterest account. I think that may appeal to a lot of teachers.
Thank you so much for supporting my work at RaiseThemRighteous! If you have ideas for how to improve the blog, recommendations of books to review, or are interested in guest blogging, please email me at: RaiseThemRighteous@gmail.com.
Thank you so much,
Tommie 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.