Following her eponymous debut (2008), Willow’s second adventure is gay—as in happy and as in, well, gay.
It’s hard to find LGBTQ–themed picture books that don’t focus on matrimony or meanies, and Brennan-Nelson’s newest utilizes both. In a world populated mostly by smiling white people (except in crowd scenes), Willow’s beloved uncle Ash is marrying his partner, David, but he doesn’t dance—and what would a wedding be without a cut-up rug? Willow learns that her uncle was traumatized as a child during an enthusiastic dance performance, shamed by his father and called “Twinkle Toes” by classmates (code for “light in the loafers”?), and his ego never recovered. After a day of shopping, Willow convinces Uncle Ash to watch her dance class, and then to join in, where he rediscovers his confidence. By the end, everyone at the wedding (even Grandpa) dances happily, though the new husbands always keep a lot of distance between their bodies. In addition to offering an entirely toothless message, this story lacks an interesting structure. The plot plods along, with illustrations reflecting the text rather than expanding on it. While it’s nice that no one has to explain or defend gay marriage, there’s nothing to distinguish this story from any other picture book about uncles getting married.
A well-meaning but anodyne picture book for the post–gay-marriage era that doesn’t imagine what could come next. (Picture book. 3-8)