Errol and his teddy, Thomas, play together all the time, so when Thomas is sad one day, Errol wants to know if he can help.
Thomas nervously tells Errol that she’s actually a girl teddy, and she wishes her name was Tilly. Errol hugs her, assuring her, “What matters is that you are my friend.” With Tilly feeling better, Errol calls their friend Ava to come play. On arriving, she greets Tilly by her old name, but Errol introduces Tilly. Ava tells her what a great name that is and invites her to go play. Tilly has one adjustment to make—she refashions her bow tie into a hair bow—and Ava, encouraging her to wear what she likes, takes her own hair bow off to let her long red hair go free. Life goes on as normal for Errol and Tilly, and as before, they ride Errol’s bike, plant vegetables in the garden, eat lunch in the treehouse, and have tea parties when it rains. Walton gently explains Tilly’s gender, which is a small ripple in the lives of children at play, and subtly pokes at gender roles with Errol’s tea parties and Ava’s robot building. MacPherson’s illustrations are sweet, with a sketchy, contemporary style. He draws Errol and Ava skinny, with white skin and pink noses. Tilly is plump with tiny ears.
This book beautifully changes the narrative of gender and gender roles, but fair warning—the hug scene might bring a tear or two. (Picture book. 3-6)