Introducing Teddy by Jess Walton

Published: 31st May 2016Goodreads badge
Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Illustrator: Dougal MacPherson
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

One sunny day, Errol finds that Thomas the Teddy is sad, and Errol can’t figure out why. Then Thomas the Teddy finally tells Errol what Teddy has been afraid to say: ‘In my heart, I’ve always known that I’m a girl Teddy, not a boy Teddy. I wish my name was Tilly.’ And Errol says, ‘I don’t care if you’re a girl teddy or a boy teddy! What matters is that you are my friend.’

This is a beautiful story about Thomas the teddy, his friend Errol and Thomas’ desire to be his true self.

The narrative is a lot simpler than what I was expecting, but it is still a great story because it doesn’t complicate anything. We’re shown Thomas the Teddy’s fears about not having a friend anymore when he tells his friend his secret, but we’re also shown acceptance and love when he does.

Walton shows that nothing changes in teddy and Errol’s routine, it is exactly the same and she shows that telling people and showing them who you really are can be easy and matter of fact as well. Highlights have to be how Teddy’s friends immediately switch to her new pronouns when she tells them she would like to be Tilly instead of Thomas.

The illustrations by MacPherson are adorable, simple but descriptive as well, and I love that Teddy and Errol have this fun relationship that they continue to have when Errol learns Teddy would like to be Tilly.

Because it is a simple narrative it doesn’t take away the importance, but it is an easy to understand story for kids and with all the main moments covered by Walton’s story it is a great way to explore the topic. As the subtitle on the book says, it is a gentle guide to gender and friendship.

You can purchase Introducing Teddy via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

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Jacob’s New Dress by Sarah and Ian Hoffman

Published: 1st March 2014Goodreads badge
Albert Whitman Company
Illustrator: Chris Case
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Jacob loves playing dress-up, when he can be anything he wants to be. Some kids at school say he can’t wear “girl” clothes, but Jacob wants to wear a dress to school. Can he convince his parents to let him wear what he wants? This heartwarming story speaks to the unique challenges faced by boys who don’t identify with traditional gender roles.

I may have cried a little at the start from the simple line of “There are all sorts of ways to be a boy” and also because the conversations between Jacob and his mum are wonderful, and the writing has hit an ideal balance of acceptance and practical reluctance.

The dialogue used is about support and comfortableness. Jacob’s mum and dad don’t dismiss his ideas, but they use language to work around it. His mum is supportive but apprehensive but finds a solution to Jacob’s desires, and his dad compliments Jacob’s outfit while acknowledging it wouldn’t be something he would wear he doesn’t shut down the idea.

It’s a powerful book in that it doesn’t have answers. It was written after the authors son was gender non-conforming and I think this story is a great expression of that. It doesn’t have answers either way whether Jacob wishes he were a girl, or whether he feels weird in his body – he just likes to wear dresses. It is a great story to demonstrate that there is nothing wrong with kids exploring and trying new things. It does no harm to anyone and it gives them a chance to have fun.

There are no big conversations or topics raised, and the story doesn’t go into any further depth but it doesn’t need to. There’s a chance Jacob grows out of it and there is a chance he doesn’t, but that is not the point that is being made. It is about allowing Jacob to do something he is comfortable doing, showing him he has the support of his family, showing that there is nothing wrong with it, and it also shows that an easy conversation can be had that kids and adults alike can understand.

It isn’t all smooth sailing. We see Jacob’s apprehension, especially when it seems he isn’t going to get the support he wants and when he is dismissed by his peers, but there is a silver lining because we also see the acceptance around him and how he grows in himself and how his own pride outweighs the meanness of others.

Case’s illustrations are cartoony but realistic. The pictures are full page and coloured and the text is nestled amongst it as part of the story. The full pages allow for big scenes where entire classrooms and playgrounds can be shown which supports the narrative and shows off the scenes better than simpler or smaller images might. Case captures the emotion and drama in facial expressions and it enhances the fear and joy Jacob feels, as well as the feelings of those in his class.

I like this story because it is sweet and simple, and it shows how easy these kinds of situations can be. There are challenges as shown by the obnoxious child who clearly is repeating the things his parents say, but there are also wonderful moments where everyone else doesn’t see any problem with that and the narrative shapes these arguments in seamless and natural ways.

You can purchase Jacob’s New Dress via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

  Amazon | Amazon Aust

This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman

Published: 5th May 2014Goodreads badge
Magination Press
Illustrator: Kristyna Litten
Pages: 40
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

This day in June…. Parade starts soon…. Rainbow arches…. Joyful marches!

In a wildly whimsical, validating, and exuberant reflection of the LGBT community, This Day In June welcomes readers to experience a pride celebration and share in a day when we are all united.

Also included is a Note to Parents and Other Caregivers with information on how to talk to children about sexual orientation and gender identity in age-appropriate ways as well as a Reading Guide chock-full of facts about LGBT history and culture. This Day in June is an excellent tool for teaching respect, acceptance, and understanding of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.

This story comes from the American Psychological Association and is a great resource to teach children (and adults) about the history and culture of LGBTQIA people all centred on the parade. It does have an American focus, but there are elements that are universal as well, especially as the movements in the States had reverberating effects around the world.

There is not as much story as I was thinking there would be, but it still reads like a nice poem. There is a great amount of history expressed though you don’t realise it at the time. I enjoyed the premise more than I’d give credit to an interesting narrative. The poem style story doesn’t explain much, a lot needs to be understood from the information at the back of the book.

The lines of the poem themselves are vague and simple enough, but reading about what they are references offers a greater insight into the pride activities, participants, and history. The reading guide at the end breaks down the lines with the historical connotations such as the parade being in June, or the “sisters painting” relating to The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.

What I loved was Litten doesn’t shy away from the illustrations because these are pictures of the pride parade and there are people dressed in all manner of clothing, including the leather shorts and the “Dykes on Bikes” seen at countless pride parades. There are families, same-sex couples, and a range of costume and floats to depict all the various things usually seen at Pride.

This is a simple book but is one that could be a great resource and introduction/celebration of Pride, especially since these issues are relevant every month of the year.

You can purchase This Day In June via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Wordery

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

They All Saw A Cat by Brendan Wenzel

Published: 30th August 2016Goodreads badge
Chronicle Books
Illustrator: Brendan Wenzel
Pages: 44
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

The cat walked through the world, with its whiskers, ears, and paws . . .

In this celebration of observation, curiosity, and imagination, Brendan Wenzel shows us the many views of one cat, and how perspective shapes what we see. When you see a cat, what do you see?

I was pleasantly surprised by this story. The narrative is simple as it describes the cat walking through the world and telling readers who saw the cat, not much more than that. The cleverness is in the illustrations because they show not only that the creatures saw the cat, but what the cat looked like to them when they saw it.

Wenzel’s drawings show how the cat changes depending on the perspective of whoever is looking be it worm, bee, or child. It is incredibly clever and while the story is simple and basic, the illustrations add another level. In an unspoken way it teaches kids that animals see differently to us, and perspective changes depending on the eyes, the vantage point, and the intent.

This is a different type of story as there isn’t so much a story than an exploration of perspective. It’s a good teaching tool about how animals see the world and the journeys of a cat.

You can purchase They All Saw A Cat via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

There’s an Alien in Your Book by Tom Fletcher

Published: 16th May 2019Goodreads badge
Illustrator: Greg Abbott
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Tom Fletcher and Greg Abbott have created a new interactive adventure, this time featuring an adorable alien who has crash-landed in YOUR book!

You’ll have to help Alien back up into space, because aliens don’t belong on Earth . . . do they?

What I love about Fletcher’s books is how interactive they are. They require you to blow on pages, turn the book upside down, or pretend to draw on the pages. This time an alien has crashed into our book and we have to help him get home.

I love how the narration openly speaks to the reader and asks them to participate. It makes the alien into a real creature who is tampering and having consequences in and on the book itself. The text moves and changes as the narrative instructs so if you don’t follow along you may find it hard to read if you haven’t turned the book upside down, and it certainly is a lot more fun if it feels like your actions have an effect on the alien.

Abbott’s illustrations are a stand out once again. The adorableness of his creations are one reason why I love these books. While Fletcher’s words and instructions are entertaining, there is an extra level added by seeing the character react to these actions.

The story teaches kids about being helpful and also that everyone deserves to belong no matter what they look like. Being unique and different is not a bad thing and I love that Fletcher doesn’t leave it vague, he makes a point and then changes his mind to make the message clear.

If you loved having fun with Fletcher’s dragon and his monster then you will certainly love this story as well, especially since there is a nice surprise cross over.

You can purchase There’s An Alien in Your Book via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

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