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
David Milgrim’s Time to Get Up, Time to Go (2006) follows a little boy and his doll throughout their day. Simple illustrations and text make the picture book accessible to very young children to whom the cheerful illustrations will likely appeal. The young protagonist takes his pale-blue doll with him everywhere. His daily activities pivot around homemaking and include cleaning and cooking. Continue reading
James LaCroce’s self-published children’s picture book, Chimpy Discovers His Family (2010), is the story of a misfit chimp who prefers banana facials to banana fights. He meets a gay couple, Juan and Benji, while they vacation on his “island.”
The couple takes him on several adventures and soon decide to adopt him, however, the adoption agency rejects their appeal, because they are gay. Continue reading
Nice Little Girls (1974), a Delacorte Press publication written by Elizabeth Levy and illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein, explores the challenges of being a tomboy, particularly when boyish behaviors are paired with short hair, overalls, and sneakers that highlight how difficult reading gender can be.
When Jackie begins her first day at a new school her teacher, Mrs. James, introduces her as a boy, only to be loudly corrected by the boisterous girl. Of course, the class erupts in laughter at the expensive of both Jackie and her teacher. On the playground her new classmates continue to make fun of her gender expression telling her she’s really a boy, not a girl. Jackie is so upset she holds back tears while mulling over what it would mean to agree with them and just be a boy. This idea cheers Jackie up and she begins to march around the playground shouting “I’m a boy.” Although her peers first think she’s weird, they quickly follow her lead. Levy writes: “Jackie felt good for the first time that day.” Continue reading
Belinda’s Bouquet (1991), an Alyson Wonderland publication written by Lesléa Newman and cheerfully illustrated by Michael Willhoite, is a far more subtle depiction of lesbian parenting than was common in the early 1990s. The story is narrated by a young boy named Daniel, although it focuses on his best friend Belinda’s body image. Continue reading
Welcome, Otis!, written and illustrated by Laurie Ingersoll, is a quirky picture book that delivers an important lesson about loving someone with special needs even when it is difficult.
Readers are introduced to Otis when a cat named Mouse and a mouse named Moose startle him while on a walk. Mouse understands that they must have alarmed the “bundle of feathers” with a “bright colored tail” and has the foresight to stay calm and be gentle with the nervous Otis. Once Otis relaxes he shares his story with them. It turns out Otis fell from a tree before learning to fly and is now all alone in the world. Mouse and Moose decide they will let Otis live with them so they can help him. Continue reading
Have I mentioned how much I adore Penny Candy Books?? I have never met a Penny Candy Books’ publication I haven’t loved.
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I reviewed their amazing upcoming release by Danni Gabriel, Sam!, about a transgender boy coming out to his Latinx family as well as other titles, like the much needed A Card for my Father by Samantha Thornhill. Thornhill’s book explores how incarceration influences families from the point-of-view of a little girl who has never met her father.
If you are not familiar with Penny Candy Books, check them out. They offer dozens of titles that explore socially relevant topics told with brilliant and beautiful cultural specificity.