The title answers a question: What does the world need?
In simple, aphorism-laced language, Murphy offers a positive vision of masculinity that focuses on what he dubs “ ‘inside’ strength”—the sort that privileges kindness, respect for self and for others, knowing when to ask for help, and daring to dream big. He begins with guidelines for right behavior on the playing field (“Say ‘Nice goal!’ and ‘Good try!’ / Don’t say ‘You throw like a girl.’ Ever”). With the heartily welcome reminder that “there’s so much more than sports,” he goes on to suggest that spending time in a garden, kitchen, or science lab, playing music, reading or writing stories can all be just as valid and satisfying. Likewise showing consideration for others, working toward goals, and finally realizing that “the best you / is the you that is ALL you…. / Not a little you and a little someone else.” Harren adds life and color to this earnest but not exactly electrifying advice in vignettes depicting a black lad with mobile features and interracial parents playing or otherwise posing in various settings amid a thoroughly diverse cast of peers, pets, and passersby. The figures, human and otherwise, are rendered with fetching individuality that really comes out in group scenes…particularly on the closing pages, where the illustrator lines up smiling young children, including girls, in informal rows.
This visually buoyant book may well succeed at redirecting gender expectations—though not bending them. (Picture book. 6-8)