A rhyming story about being yourself.
Travis likes basketball, dress-up, and ballet. In wooden, unnecessary rhymes, he comes across bullies, both boys and girls: “Sometimes my classmates, / When on the playground / Like staring and judging / And cutting me down.” Confident Travis stands up to his gender-policing peers, declaring “I am who I am! / There’s no boy and girl line. / In sports or in dress-up, / I’ll sparkle and shine. // The toys that we play with, / Or clothes that we wear, / express who we are / And our natural flair.” Illustrations directly mirror the text in blocky, flat graphics. The hammer-headed message, that kids should express themselves regardless of gender stereotypes, is fine. Excruciating verse, with rhymes both wrenched and forced, detracts significantly from the already-uninspired story. At one point Travis, a black child with short, natural hair, confusingly says “I swish back my hair”; in the backmatter readers learn that the author was inspired by a former student, a white boy with much more swishable hair. The haphazard selection of other inspirations includes Coco Chanel and Langston Hughes. “Just like Travis, these people struggled against the opinions of others, but they persevered and soon dazzled in their own ways,” an anodyne way to refer to misogyny, racism, and homophobia.
Gender and stereotyping are popular themes for picture books; readers are blessed with the opportunity to choose almost any other. (Picture book. 3-6)