Much needed in the landscape of family-oriented picture books.

MY MADDY

A loving, celebratory window into a young child’s relationship with their nonbinary parent.

The latest in Pitman’s LGBTQ books for children introduces young readers to a parent whose gender identity and expression are “entirely fantastically their own”—not a mommy or a daddy, but “my Maddy.” Told from the perspective of a light-skinned, redheaded child, the story normalizes what’s “in between, and kind of both,” which is everywhere in nature, from dawn (“it’s not day and it’s not night,” Maddy explains) to the color hazel (a mix between green and brown). Vignettes from the main characters’ everyday lives are vibrantly depicted in artist Tobacco’s bold, full-bleed illustrations, including walks to school, snacktime, and stories before bed. Particularly noteworthy is the heartwarming scene when Maddy kisses their kid goodbye before dropping them off at school: Beside a glowing portrait of the beaming family, the text reads, “Maddy’s kisses feel like sandpaper against my face.” Such positive images of gender-nonconforming presentations are rare in children’s literature, making this a valuable addition to any school, public, or personal library for its engaging art and accessible representation for a wide age range. The adult-oriented backmatter uses person-first language and identifies the book’s inspiration as intersex; notes on intersex identity and supporting children in understanding their parents’ genders are accompanied by resources. Unfortunately, one of these is the Human Rights Campaign, known for its fraught relationship with trans communities.

Much needed in the landscape of family-oriented picture books. (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: May 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4338-3044-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Magination/American Psychological Association

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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Positively refreshing.

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HAIR LOVE

A black girl helps her dad learn how to give her the perfect hairstyle for a very special day.

Zuri’s voluminous head of hair “has a mind of its own. It kinks, coils, and curls every which way.” She is pictured asleep with a large Afro framing her face. She is proud of her hair, which she sometimes wears in braids with beads like a princess and other times in pigtail puffs. But today is a special day. She knows Daddy is “worn-out” and probably needs a break, so she lets him sleep in while she looks up hairstyles on a tablet. When Daddy wakes and offers to help, he tries a series of hairstyles that just don’t work. Finally, Zuri grabs some hair supplies and shows him a tutorial. “Watching carefully… / Daddy combed, / parted, oiled, and twisted. / He nailed it!” Zuri is lovely and happy with her freshly done hairstyle, and when Mommy arrives to their “Welcome Home” sign, she loves Zuri’s look too. The digital illustrations feature details that feel just right: Zuri’s thick, textured hair, Daddy’s locs and tattoo, and dark-skinned Mom’s bright headwrap. While it’s unclear where Mommy is returning from (she is dressed casually and has a rolling black suitcase), this authentic depiction of a loving and whole black family broadens the scope of representation.

Positively refreshing. (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-55336-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kokila

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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This tale of self-acceptance and respect for one’s roots is breathtaking.

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EYES THAT KISS IN THE CORNERS

A young Chinese American girl sees more than the shape of her eyes.

In this circular tale, the unnamed narrator observes that some peers have “eyes like sapphire lagoons / with lashes like lace trim on ballgowns,” but her eyes are different. She “has eyes that kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea.” Author Ho’s lyrical narrative goes on to reveal how the girl’s eyes are like those of other women and girls in her family, expounding on how each pair of eyes looks and what they convey. Mama’s “eyes sparkl[e] like starlight,” telling the narrator, “I’m a miracle. / In those moments when she’s all mine.” Mama’s eyes, the girl observes, take after Amah’s. While she notes that her grandmother’s eyes “don’t work like they used to,” they are able to see “all the way into my heart” and tell her stories. Here, illustrator Ho’s spreads bloom with references to Chinese stories and landscapes. Amah’s eyes are like those of the narrator’s little sister. Mei-Mei’s eyes are filled with hope and with admiration for her sister. Illustrator Ho’s textured cartoons and clever use of light and shadow exude warmth and whimsy that match the evocative text. When the narrator comes to describe her own eyes and acknowledges the power they hold, she is posed against swirling patterns, figures, and swaths of breathtaking landscapes from Chinese culture. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 80.5% of actual size.)

This tale of self-acceptance and respect for one’s roots is breathtaking. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-291562-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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