My Maddy by Gayle E. Pitman

Published: 25th May 2020Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Magination Press
Illustrator: Violet Tobacco
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Most mommies are girls. Most daddies are boys. But lots of parents are neither a boy nor a girl. Like my Maddy.

My Maddy has hazel eyes which are not brown or green. And my Maddy likes sporks because they are not quite a spoon or a fork.

Some of the best things in the world are not one thing or the other. They are something in between and entirely their own.

I was so glad to discover this book because while there are a growing number of picture books about trans kids and parents, I was curious about whether the non-binary community were given representation as well.

The story is incredible sweet, it’s a gentle slow read about a young child and their “Maddy”, a person who is presented as non-binary. I loved the opening line about how most mummies are girls and most daddies are boys because right away it already opens up the acknowledgement of a gender spectrum on parents.

Many elements of Maddy are a mixture; their eyes, their hair, a combination of two different things coming together to make them who they are. It’s not only Maddy’s appearance though, Pitman frequently uses the ‘in-between’ to show that wonderful things don’t have to be one thing or another and the spaces between can be their own beautiful thing.

Tobacco’s illustrations are great and I loved the use of colour, especially recognisable colours of the non-binary flag in Maddy’s clothes as well as pride slogans and posters around the house. The full page illustrations are full of bright colours and I love how Maddy and our child narrator are shown interacting with the world around them – their expressions, their actions, and even the unique angles and perspectives of the pictures are interesting.

This is a great story about a loving family and their unique look at the world of in-between spaces and how many things are neither one thing or another if you look closely enough.

You can purchase My Maddy via the following

 Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Born Ready: The True Story of a Boy Named Penelope by Jodie Patterson

Published: 13 April 2021Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Crown Books for Young Reader
Illustrator: Charnelle Pinkney Barlow
Pages: 40
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★   – 4 Stars

Penelope knows that he’s a boy. (And a ninja.) The problem is getting everyone else to realize it.
In this exuberant companion to Jodie Patterson’s adult memoir,

The Bold World, Patterson shares her son Penelope’s frustrations and triumphs on his journey to share himself with the world. Penelope’s experiences show children that it always makes you stronger when you are true to yourself and who you really are.

Patterson has written a great story about a young boy called Penelope who tries to tell his family that despite looking like a girl, he feels like a boy on the inside. The story is based on the true story of Patterson’s own son and is a wonderful tale of acceptance and family.

The story is a great example of how kids use their behaviour to be seen and heard by their family when they feel invisible and Patterson captures Penelope’s frustration as well as his love for his family well.

Patterson uses great language to help describe how Penelope is feeling on the inside in a way kids can understand when they have no broader context or understanding for their own feelings and don’t know the right words. This is especially important when kids as young as Penelope are being told the story, it gives them a feeling they can understand even if the experience isn’t the same.

The story shows how different cultures see gender and even some of Penelope’s own family have a different understanding of the transgender community based on their culture which is a great example of how there is no one right way to see people.

There is full support through Penelope’s story, even with a few pushbacks it’s great to show a story where everyone is accepting and there’s no fight to present how your feel on the inside. Not every story has to be a fight, and not every story has to be fraught with conflicts.

It’s a simple straightforward story that shows how easy and accepting people can be when given the chance. Penelope knows what he wants and who he is and it’s great to still see him as a child who likes to be a ninja and go to school. Becoming who he is on the inside is only part of the story but at the same time you can see his family helping setting him up for the future.

You can purchase Born Ready via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Blob by Anne Appert

Published: 14th September 2021Goodreads badge
Publisher:
HarperCollins
Illustrator: Anne Appert
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Blob is a creature of indeterminate kind. Blob can be a giraffe, cotton candy, and even an octopus. It’s not until a negligent (albeit well-meaning) narrator continuously calls them “Bob” that Blob starts to question who they really are.

After a series of funny yet enlightening discoveries about all the possible things they can be, Blob realizes that the best thing to be is…

Blob.

(With the L.)

The story is written as a dialogue between Blob and the narrator alongside cute illustrations. The story follows our introduction to Blob as they demonstrate all the wonderful things they can turn into as well as work out who they want to be.

It’s funny be also endearing to watch Blob’s journey of self-discovery and Appert’s illustrations are creative and charming which show off a lot of Blob’s personality. I love Blob’s design and the way the illustrations are laid out on the page adds to the story.

I liked that Blob stands up to the narrator as they keep getting things wrong and presuming things about them. Appert shows that there’s still time to find out what you want to be and to have the courage to go after it. It’s a deceptively simple story but one that shows taking chances and standing up for who you are despite what other people say you are is always worth the risk.

You can purchase Blob via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

My Own Way by Joana Estrela Translated by Jay Hulme

Published: 1st March 2022Goodreads badge
Publisher
: Wide Eyed Editions
Illustrator
: Joana Estrela
Translator
: Jay Hulme
Pages
: 40
Format
: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Small children are often asked to choose between a gendered binary–”boy” or “girl”, “pink” or “blue”. This colorful picture book smashes these stereotypes and encourages the reader to follow their own way!

“Girl or Boy?”
What brings you joy?
“Pink or blue?”
It’s up to you.

With vibrant illustrations and concise, poetic text, this powerful book teaches young children that there are no limits in what you can do and who you can be.  You are unique!

Translated from the original Portuguese by award-winning transgender poet Jay Hulme, My Own Way is an important, timely, and beautiful celebration of identity, difference, and respect.

I picked this book up with reasonable expectations but I wasn’t expecting it to be as profound and lovely as I did. There are sometimes only three words on a page but they are impactful words. The story reminds the reader that it’s up to them to decide who they want to be. It starts off familiarly with the choice of blue or pink, girl or boy, emphasising what brings you joy is most important.

There’s wonderful messages that whether man or woman you should be as kind as you can, also that boy and girl doesn’t cover everyone and you might be both or none. I love that a book with such simple text can actually be more impactful than a story where a child is exploring their identity through a plot. Those are amazing as well, but I loved the simplicity of this.

There are fantastic lines like “your truth isn’t hidden underneath your clothes” and “your truth is something only you can know”. Kids should be told they can be and feel however they want and it’s ok, that there’s more to them than whether they are a boy or a girl and Estrela and Hulme do that beautifully. There is also a great message that it’s up to each person to say who they are and no one else.

The pictures are simple and minimal on character detail but they accompany the words well. Full page and brightly coloured they stand out with unusual colour combinations as well as great symbolic use that colours don’t always match the people society expects them to match.

With only a few words there is a lot of important lessons being learnt and I’m amazed that so much can be said with so few words and I applaud Estrela and Hulme for presenting it so well.

You can purchase My Own Way via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

It Fell From the Sky by The Fan Brothers

Published: 28 September 2021 by Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Illustrator: Fan Brothers
Pages: 48
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

It fell from the sky on a Thursday.

None of the insects know where it came from, or what it is. Some say it’s an egg. Others, a gumdrop. But whatever it is, it fell near Spider’s house, so he’s convinced it belongs to him.

Spider builds a wondrous display so that insects from far and wide can come look at the marvel. Spider has their best interests at heart. So what if he has to charge a small fee? So what if the lines are long? So what if no one can even see the wonder anymore?

But what will Spider do after everyone stops showing up?

Immediately the illustrations grab you eye, before any hint of a story. The Fan brothers use colour well and the way it’s used to bring life to the garden is done well. The contrast of the black and white against the colour of the marble is impactful from the moment you open the book and the colour choice, or lack of colour, sets up a wonderful mood for the story. It’s not only the colours, the illustrations themselves are gorgeous. Double spreads of the garden and the insects in it. It was amazing that a place usually full of colour could still look so stunning in black and white.

From a delightful mystery I loved how it then turned into a story of greed and extortion and while there isn’t a lesson spelled out, it’s clear that the selfish among them understand their mistakes and try to make it right, all keeping within the quiet, calm nature of the story.

It is a lovely story that shows a little word beneath our feet where bugs and other insects live and the wonders of our everyday may seem to them. I loved how each insect approached the object and used their experience and interpretations to understand it. It’s amazing how a relatively simple story could be so touching.

You can purchase It Fell From the Sky via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

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