Mia Wenjen’s Sumo Joe

Sumo JoeI’ve been blogging for a couple of years now and I get “book mail” often. In fact, my four-year-old always asks if the package I’m opening contains something we can read together, and it usually does. When I received Sumo Joe, Mia Wenjen’s debut picture book, the two of us did what we usually do – we cuddled up on the couch and read the book. Then we read it again, and again, and again. You get the idea.

This book is many things: 1) a lyrical kid-friendly introduction to sumo, 2) a story about sibling love (and competition), 3) clever and accessible commentary about gender and cultural traditions, and 4) an empowering story that reminds young readers that size doesn’t always matter, even in competitive fighting. Continue reading

Judith Vigna’s My Two Uncles (1995)

My Two Uncles

Judith Vigna’s My Two Uncles was published by Albert Whitman & Company in was published in 1995. Vigna has authored a long list of social issue picture books including Black Like Kyra, White Like Me, I Wish Daddy Didn’t Drink So Much, Mommy and Me By Ourselves Again, and Saying Goodbye to Daddy. My Two Uncles, like her other titles, seeks to write into children’s books realities too frequently absent from them. In this case she explores same-gender relationships from the first-person point-of-view of a child, Elly, who loves visiting her two uncles. Unlike most books that represent lesbian and gay adults from the period, this one mentions the word “gay.” Continue reading

Koja Adeyoha and Angel Adeyoha’s 47,000 Beads (2017)

47k small47,000 Beads (2017), written by Koja Adeyoha and Angel Adeyoha and illustrated by Holly McGillis, is a Flamingo Rampant publication about a child named Peyton who does not want to participate in her community pow wows because she isn’t comfortable wearing a dress. Her Auntie Eyota acknowledges Peyton’s feelings and works with family and community to help Peyton connect with her cultural traditions while creating an identity she is comfortable claiming. Continue reading

Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell’s And Tango Makes Three (2005)

And Tango Makes Three (Classic Board Books)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.

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Mariana Llanos’s Luca’s Bridge/ El puente de Luca

Luca's Bridge/El Puente de LucaMariana Llanos’ timely bilingual picture book Luca’s Bridge/ El puente de Luca tells the story of a boy named Luca and his family as they move from the US, where his parents are undocumented, to Mexico, where they are citizens, so the family can remain together.

The story is told in the third-person from Luca’s point-of-view as he leaves the only home he has ever known for a country whose language he doesn’t speak. The book captures the generational divide that often separates citizens from non-citizens in homes throughout the US as well as the effects of unreasonable immigration policies on families and children. Continue reading

Eric Jon Nones’ Caleb’s Friend (1993)

Caleb's Friend by Eric Jon Nones (1993-05-01)Eric Jon Nones’ Caleb’s Friend (1993), published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, offers a queerly seductive representation of same-gender desire.

Caleb, a tan-skinned boy of about twelve, is an orphan who works on a boat. One day an icy-blue skinned merboy approaches the ship to return a harmonica Caleb has accidentally dropped into the sea. The human boy and merboy continue to meet, but they exchange objects like shells and flowers instead of kisses. Continue reading