Meet Clive, a white toddler who loves to play with his toys, his accessories, and his friends.
In this title, one of a series, Clive takes tender loving care of two baby dolls, one with brown skin and the other white. He gives them a ride in a stroller, feeds them, dresses them, shows them how to use a potty, puts them to bed in a cardboard box, and finally cuddles with them in his own bed. The companion titles also demonstrate Clive’s freedom from traditional gender norms. In Clive and His Hats, the tyke plays with all sorts of headgear, including a flowery, purple hat accompanied by a lavender feather boa. He employs all sorts of luggage, such as a book bag at the library, a nurse’s bag, a sports bag full of balls, and a sleeping bag at bedtime in Clive and His Bags. And finally, in Clive and His Art, the boy explores a variety of media including painting, construction, collage, and bead threading. In each of the books, Clive plays with a diverse group of friends, including Mina, Asif, Jeffrey (who look to be of Asian, Middle Eastern, and African descent respectively), and Moshi, an endearing black cat. Spanyol’s delightful cartoons, which read as a mix of pen, ink, and cut-paper collage in muted colors and have a childlike, two-dimensional look, are clear, accessible, and joyous. While the series has a decidedly British feel, from the hero’s name to the omnipresence of paper crowns, there is nothing here to confuse North American toddlers.
In a world where toy aisles and sometimes book racks are explicitly and implicitly gendered, Clive’s love of baby dolls, frilly hats, glitter, and bags of all sorts is a breath of fresh air. (Board book. 18 mos.-4)