Some children’s authors are taking it upon themselves to lead the way in helping to shape new generations of caring, inclusive thinkers who are not bound by gender norms or toxic stereotypes. By creating books that will have a positive influence on children’s relationship with gender in their formative years, young generations will enter society with the best possible outlook.
These three books are trailblazers for the cause. Each of them discusses gender in their own unique way. Adults and children alike could learn a lot from their example.
Gender Fluidity: Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love
More and more children are feeling comfortable expressing their gender fluidity, despite the difficulties society might throw at them. Transgender and non-binary children need to be seen, supported, and celebrated. Books like Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love do an incredible job in this respect. The book tells the tale of Julián and his abuela (his grandmother) through beautiful illustrations and few words. After seeing a group of mermaids on the subway, Julián decides that he wants to be a mermaid as well. He then dresses up in a make-shift mermaid costume as soon as he gets home. After his abuela seems initially disgruntled, she then returns to Julián with a gift and reassures him that she will love him no matter what.
Jessica Love tells a beautiful story about acceptance and finding your true self. It is a heart-warming read which tells children that they can be whatever they want to be, while teaching adults to show unwavering support.
Same-sex relationships: And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
It’s a timeless tale: a love story set in New York City. But this time the spotlight is on Roy and Silo, two male penguins who live in New York Zoo. Peter Parnell tells the story of these two penguins who spend all of their time together and decide to build a nest to share.
When all of the other penguins start finding eggs in their nests, Roy and Silo are at a loss as to where their eggs are. Then, one of the zookeepers has the idea to give them another couple’s unwanted egg. The romantic pair nurture the egg and start a family together, proving that love can combat all boundaries no matter who you are.
Based on a true story, And Tango Makes Three warms hearts and teaches children valuable lessons about love and acceptance.
Toxic Masculinity: The Storybook Knight by Helen Docherty
Books for boys don’t have to be full of dramatic feats and displays of chivalry. They can celebrate gentle heroes too. The Storybook Knight tells the tale of Leo the mouse, “a gentle knight in thought and word and deed.”. Leo prefers reading to fighting, choosing to face his opponents armed with a book rather than a weapon. He encounters a pugilistic griffin, a ravenous bridge troll, and finally the fiery red dragon and teaches them about reading and kindness one by one.
This delightful story offers a gentle alternative to the toxic masculinity narrative. It teaches children about kindness and tolerance, while challenging outdated gender stereotypes.
The world of publishing and book printing is clearly waking up to the demand for a more diverse range of children’s books. Thanks to innovative authors like these ones, we are seeing an influx of inclusive books which offer a new narrative to young children. Breaking down gender binaries at a young age is crucial for children to flourish and feel accepted in an ever-changing world.