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This book is very cute. Anny Yi’s clay portraits of the bands and punk fans are adorable, it’s written in rhyme feeling like an homage it classic children’s books. It takes the reader through a history of punk starting with protopunk bands in New York like Blondie and the New York Dolls, to the Ramones, to Detroit’s Iggy and the Stooges, on to England with the Sex Pistols and The Clash, and beyond!
I do wish this book was more diverse, while it does have a page devoted to women in punk which does highlight Poly Styrene (along with The Slits, and Siouxsie) she is the only person of color mentioned besides Bad Brains. There’s even a spread on California punk that doesn’t include any Latinx punk. There is no mention of queercore, although to be fair, my favorite looks and iconic images of queercore shows and bands probably aren’t appropriate for an adorable kids book (although I do think a clay model of Martin Sorrondeguy in assless chaps for more mature consumption would be delightful).
I would recommend having some companion pieces: Suzy X’s comic about punk and inclusion would be a great thing to read along with What Is Punk. If that’s not for you, why not have pictures of the brothers in Death and talk about them as you read about NY protopunk bands, or Iggy and the Stooges in Detroit? You could also have photos of your favorite POC punk bands talk about those bands and why you love them. At the end of the book it talks about how there’s still a punk scene and culture in the reader’s town today, if you have local bands or festivals that are POC/queer/femme (and not just music: DIY/activist too) you could show them fliers and talk to them about it. If just showing them photos and talking about bands that you love that too often get left out of punk history seems less exciting then that cute little rhyming book, you could play them music from your fav bands, and teach your favorite kids different mosh pit moves.
I hope the next cute kid’s book about punk will include more (some riot grrrl please…), because punk is such a big part of many people’s lives and it would be great to have a picture book that would allow all punks to share their passion with they kids they love. I’ll accept this as a first step though, and know a lot of punks out there will be excited to read some childish rhymes about The Descendants and The Misfits.
The other day I got an email from a good friend asking for help with their goddaughter:
I was wondering if i could tap your brain on children’s media. [My best friend] and i have been increasingly concerned about some of [my goddaughter’s] identity development as a little Black girl – her obsession with elsa from frozen (which worried us from the start) is now becoming internalized into self-hatred around being Black. trying to help her love her hair is an ongoing struggle (of course), but there are also a lot of other worrying elements.
I was wondering if you know of any good children’s media (age 4) that might help create a healthier, empowering normative for her around being a Black girl. we’ve got it covered on the front of kids books celebrating little black girls hair, but [my goddaughter’s] generally uninterested in them ’cause they don’t have the glitz and glam that capture her attention like frozen does. she’s also definitely in a princess phase and just overall really femme – this we accept. but even so, princess tiana doesn’t inspire in her the same kind of enthusiasm as she has for elsa, no matter how much we elevate her (because, let’s face it, disney really failed us on that project).
her mom worships beyonce, so it’s inevitable that the girl also has taste, and style, and spunk and wants media that reflects that. but, unfortunately, the creation and marketing of frozen/elsa is invariably sexier than books for little black girls illustrated in elegant watercolors. and cartoon options (at least as we know it) are severely lacking/incomparable as well (reference tiana vs elsa again). we’re wanting to overhaul her media consumption, and we’re looking for more/better options… and hopefully there are some things that are also sexy enough to compete with the marketing machine that constantly pushes frozen/elsa at us. i know you’re pretty up-to-date with what’s constantly evolving and trending in internet world, and for all kinds of youth as well. i was wondering if you might know of what’s out there or where we should go to look. my baby’s identity development is on the line!
any thoughts or ideas you have would be greatly appreciated. thanks, friend.
So… once my heart was done breaking I quickly started working on a list of media, and it was fairly short. Which makes sense I suppose, because if there was fair representation of Black girls in children’s media this girl and her family wouldn’t be in this problem, right? But luckily there are a number of librarian forums I could turn to and expand the list! Here’s what the youth librarian hive mind came up with:
Straight up Princesses who are Black kid’s media
- Cinderella (staring Brandy)
- Rapunzel Jackson is an independent film I’m not sure how to get a hold of, here’s their facebook
- Princess Grace
- Princess Cupcake Jones
- My Princess Boy
- Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters
- The Apple-Pip Princess
- Shanna’s Princess Show
Activity and Coloring books:
Sparkly/Glam/Ballerina Black Femme Kid’s media
Movies, TV, and online Videos:
- The Muppet’s Wizard of Oz
- Doc McStuffins
- The endless amounts of online videos of Misty Copeland the ground breaking Black Ballerina
- Sesame Street’s I Love My Hair
- Books about Gabby Douglas
- The Lotti Paris series
- Beautiful Ballerina
- A Dance Like Starlight
- Ballerina Dreams: From Orphan to Dancer
- Summer Jackson
- Penny and the Magic Poof Balls
- Dancing in the Wings
- I’m a Pretty Little Black Girl
- Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker (There was some controversy about this on the forums about whether or not this was an ideal book for someone going through a princess phase, but it’s VERY glamorous)
Black Kid’s Media that isn’t bubblegum Pink/Glittery (not at all comprehensive)
Movies, TV, online videos:
- I Love My Hair
- Nappy Hair
- Happy to Be Nappy
- Please, Baby, Please
- The Lola series
- Shades of Black
- Honey, I Love
- I Like Myself
- I Can Do It Too
- The Colors of Us
- I Got The Rhythm
Lists other folks have made
- The Brown Bookshelf is a blog dedicated to Black kids books, on it opening page it has My Friend Maya Loves to Dance, which looks promising
- Ink & Pen is a great blog dedicated to diversity in kid lit, they also respond to questions like this, so you could totally hit them up
- We Need Diverse Books is a campaign and blog, they also are responsive to questions and would be great minds to tap for kid’s media
- The reflective library a blog by a school librarian that focuses on books with primary characters of color
- Nannarchism is a blog by my favorite ex which is “musings of a radical early childhood educator in Chicago.” The first article she wrote is Beyond Multicultural and Diverse Classrooms which is well worth a read.
So, like my first gender fluid kids books blog post, most of these books explore femme trans identities. I’m not totally sure why femme trans narratives dominate the youth lit– lemme know if you have thoughts– but that seems to be where we’re at right now. I think it’s important to remember that we, right now today, are at the very beginning of trans/gender nonconforming representation in kid’s lit. So while there are some glaring holes–and it’s not just MOC kids getting left out, these books are also mostly about White kids– in what gender independent narratives that are getting told right now, one could be optimistic about the diverse gender representations that are going to be in kid’s books as more and more of them get published.
Which brings me to my first couple of reviews. Flamingo Rampant is an independent kid’s book publishing company, that focuses on stories of gender independent folks. (They are about to launch a book club which will be 6 new picture books over 2015; you can find out all about it on the main page of their website). Currently they have published two books, Backwards Day and The Adventures of Tulip, Birthday Wish Fairy.
Backwards Day has a really fun concept! On a far away planet called Tenalp a lot of things are different, one of which is that one day every year everything is the reverse of how things usually are. Day is night, upstream runs down, and binary genders switch! While there are a lot of things to enjoy on backwards day– ice cream for breakfast!– one kid named Andrea LOVES backwards day because it’s the one day of the year she [sic] feels like herself [sic]: a boy. The book looks at one particular Backwards Day where Andrea stays a girl – a particularly devastating day- and the following day when Andrea becomes (and ends up staying) a boy [sic]! While it’s confusing to his parents at first when a nice doctor explains that Andrea is actually boy, and sometimes the magic of backwards day lets folks permanently transform into who they really are, everyone ultimately gets on board, and Andy’s totally thrilled!
The Adventures of Tulip, Birthday Wish Fairy felt a little amateurish to me. It’s another super cute concept, but it’s just not executed as well as the other books on this list. My main issue is that it just has too many words jam packed onto every page; it feels too scrunched to be a picture book. I feel like it would have done better as an illustrated chapter book or a kid’s graphic novel. It tells the story of Tulip who, true to the title, is a fairy who grants birthday wishes. One day he gets a special birthday wish from a boy who wants to be a girl [sic]. After receiving guidance from the head wish granting fairy, Tulip gives this child luck and courage, and also gives the kid’s family open minds to see who their child really is. After the child’s birthday has passed, Tulip continues to work with this family giving them strength, resilience and the ability to advocate for their trans child after the rest of his birthday wish duties are done. Tulip is so dedicated to this child that he is given a new job as the fairy who helps gender nonconforming children with their transition wishes.
Be Who you Are is a realistic story about a young trans girl who goes through the process of transitioning. Everything goes the way you would hope it would. Her family is open to her identity and advocates for her at school, which allows her to be who she is. Her brother has a hard time with the concept, then they have a rather sweet conversation about it and he gets on board too. It’s a cute, light hearted book that one would hope could serve as a blueprint on how to handle kids transitioning in your community.
Like the two previous, this book initially uses the main character’s birth name and the gender pronouns she was coercively assigned at birth and switches to her real name and gender pronouns at the end. This isn’t my favorite; I am a much bigger fan of trans kids books that consistently use the kid’s real pronouns throughout the narration. However I included all three books in this review since, as I’m sure you already know, there isn’t a great variety of gender independent youth lit to choose from. For some kids and families it would make sense to have a more selective collection of picture books that uses the child’s real gender pronoun consistently; but for some kids and families it would make sense to have more books with trans narratives even if some use outdated and/or incorrect language. And I’m just hoping I give folks enough information to make those choices for themselves.
This book is really exciting because Jazz Jennings co-wrote it about her own experience being a trans girl! It starts off introducing Jazz, what she does, what she likes, and who her friends are. Then it goes back and talks about what it was like for her to be coercively assigned male as a young child and what transitioning was like for her. Her family is so sweet and supportive, and it’s delightful to read about the joy she experiences when they get it and she gets to start publicly being who she is. Her wider community does find it confusing. For a while they make her play on boy’s soccer teams, and some kids still tease her and use a boy name for her. But she has friends who love her, support her, and know who she is. It ends with Jazz proclaiming she doesn’t care if she’s different; she knows who she is, happy, fun, and proud. She is Jazz!
I’m including this book, even though it’s not a trans narrative, because I want trans inclusive kids books to go beyond stories of transition, and What Makes a Baby does that. What Makes a Baby is a really great kids book about how babies get made that is inclusive to all families! When it talks about what you need to make a baby, it talks about sperm, eggs, and uteruses; what’s really exciting is it doesn’t assign any of those pieces to any kind of body or gender. What Makes a Baby also goes beyond trans inclusivity when it asks the reader “Who helped bring together the sperm and the egg that made you?” and “Who was happy that it was YOU who grew?” Making it inclusive to babies who who conceived not only by trans parent(s) but any parents using donor sperm or a surrogate womb, or parents who adopted their babies. And while I think it’s pretty awesome that as the cover says this is “a book for every kind of family and every kind of kid,” it is the first kids book about making babies that is inclusive to trans parents and trans kids which is pretty ground breaking.
So Mask Magazine is a “Reader Supported, Ad-free, Style + Culture for the Disappointed Generation” online publication. I know the editors, started subscribing and have really enjoyed it. I suggest you check it out as well. I was asked to write a buying guide of youth lit for it, and promptly and excitedly threw this thing together. Check it out, get some books to some kids or something!
So I’m doing a femme edition of gender fluid kid’s books because books about gender nonconforming kids exploring masculinity or androgyny have not been available through any of the library systems I’ve had cards at. I have every intention of creating a masculine and an androgynous edition of this blog post, if I can find and purchase relevant books, so please let me know about books that fit the bill!
My Princess Boy, by Cheryl Kilodavis
My Princess boy is an absolutely fantastic book! It’s a nonfiction picture book written by a mother of a feminine boy, and just gives you a snap shot of their lives. You see her Princess Boy play with his father and brother, go to parties with his friends, enjoy going to school; but you also see how strangers react to him with laughter, and hurts him and his mother. One of the best things about this books is how it challenges it’s readers to consider how they would treat a princess boy. It’s also exciting that it tells the story of an accepting and loving Black family, I just wish the artist had drawn their faces…
Jacob’s New Dress, by Ian Hoffman
Jacob’s New Dress is a lovely simple story of a boy who loves wearing dresses. He starts wearing them as he and his best friend find them in the costume box during free time in class; but he ultimately decides he want to wear one at school as just his outfit that day. The book feels like it could happen in real life: there’s a mean kid who tells him boys can’t wear dresses, his parents have to think about whether or not he should wear one to school. But his best friend and teacher always have his back, and his parents get behind him too, his mom even makes his dress. It’s a sweet validating little book.
10,000 Dresses, by Marcus Ewert
10,000 dresses is a book about Bailey, a little girl who dreams of beautiful dresses every night; when she wakes up and tries to get her family to help her makes them they tell her that she’s a boy and boys don’t wear dresses. While it is sad that Bailey’s identity and dreams are denied by her family, the reason I love this book is because she goes out and finds someone who won’t. She wanders a way from her house and finds a girl who just happens to be trying to make dresses, and is thrilled Bailey has many dreams worth of dress inspiration. While of course all queer children hope their families will love and accept them for who they are, a lot of us grew to understand if we wanted a family that would love and accept all of us we had to go out into the world and find it. I love that the happy ending of this book is that Bailey finds a friend who thinks she’s the coolest girl ever.
I read this book because it was one of many books banned from Arizona public school’s when their effective and enthralling ethnic studies classes were prohibited from continuing (please learn more about the ethnic studies ban, read the full list of banned books, and join the librotraficante movement).
My Name is Yoon was the only picture book on the list, and one that I hadn’t heard of, so I had to pick it up. It tells the story of a young girl named Yoon who has recently immigrated to the states from Korea. Before she starts school Yoon’s father teaches her how to write her name in English. In Korean her name means Shining Wisdom, in Korean the characters dance on the page, in Korean it is her name. But writing it in English, YOON no longer seems like her name. At school instead of writing her name she writes CAT, BIRD, and CUPCAKE, because she likes the idea of being any of those things, she is not sure if she’ll ever feel like YOON.
By the end of the book Yoon has made a friend at school, her family is happy and proud of how much she learned, and she starts to feel like this new place could be a good home for her. By the end of the book she writes her name is English, because “Yes, my name is Yoon.”
This book is simple, and poignant. The illustrations are beautiful water colors, exaggerated just beyond realistic to pull you into her child’s understanding of the world. Recorvits’ use of the difference of written language as an example for all the many changes in Yoon’s life is a perfect literary device, especially for a young reader thinking about the immigrant experience. It’s a very compelling and relatable story that would work well for a child who has gone through or is going through an immigration process, or a child who hasn’t but should be thinking about these issues compassionately.
Bob Graham is a children’s book author and illustrator who writes charming warm and fun stories for younger readers. I want to recommend him because he writes books about working class, punk, alternative families that live in cities (whose walls are quite often covered with graffiti). These are not all of his books, but my favorites so far.
Spirit of Hope tells the story of the Fairweather family, a family with seven children a stay at home mom (who wears over overalls with red high heels) and a father who works at a factory. They are a warm and loving family with minimal resources and maximum awesome playful parents. The conflict of the story arrives when imminent domain over the land where their house is, and their journey to find another place to call home.
Let’s Get a Pup is the story of Kate and her mom (who has a tattoo) and dad (who has a fairly punk hairdo), and her decision that they need to get a puppy. So they go to the pound and find a perfect dog (or two…) to take home.
Jethro Byrd, Fairy Child: Annebelle’s dad tells her she won’t find any fairies in the cement and weeds in the backyard of their city home, but that doesn’t stop her from searching. One day the Byrds, a fairy family, van break down right where Annebelle is looking for them! Annebelle and he little brother Sam get to spend the whole afternoon with the Byrds, listen to their music, and mom even makes them all a snack (even though she can’t see the Byrds).
Oscar’s half birthday tells the story of a mixed race family who travel across their graffiti covered city to a park to celebrate their youngest member’s sixth month birthday. Millie, the older sister in homemade fiary wings; mom, who has a tattoo, a belly shirt and corn rows; and dad, who wears a loose knit hat, has a scraggly goatee, and converse sneakers just couldn’t wait a whole year to celebrate Oscar!
I had never read this piece of Seuss’ work, which surprised me as I’m a pretty big Seuss fan. My dear friend Skyler (another rad kid’s book fanatic) brought me to his local library, when I came to visit, and sat me down to read it.
It’s the story of a Seuss style creature who runs into troubles (over and over) where he lives, so he decides to run a way and find a place to live where he’ll be troubled no more. He runs into a traveler who’s headed to Solla Sollew and claims that this is a trouble free land.
The entire journey is chalk full of troubles and worries and problems for our protagonist. And when he finally gets to Solla Sollew he finds that it too is full of difficulties.
So he decides that he’s sick of running and to goes back home, and face his problems head on. It’s a pretty simple, fun, Seussian book, with a lovely message: there is no running a way from your problems, however, you can stand your ground and take ’em!
My absolute favorite part of the book is the last line: “But I’ve bought a big bat. I’m all ready, you see. Now my troubles are going/ to have troubles with me!” — so baddass!