Sturdy paper, large, spare text, and bold colors imply the youngest audience, but both words and pictures are bound to mislead in this poorly composed gender-role primer.
The opening left-hand page shows two little girls in black and pink, respectively, their arms in ballerinalike arches. The opposite page bluntly states, “Boys don’t dance.” The following double-page spread shows two young men in sweatpants and hoodies hip-hopping their way across the room and the retort, “What? Of course they do!” (No males in tights in sight.) Similarly, the girl jumping rope casually is followed by a boxer training in a seedy basement. The message muddles further as identically strong statements about what boys or girls don’t do are followed with weaker answers, such as “Are you sure?” and “Don’t they?” Photographs of active little boys and girls, often using toys, are followed by stock photographs of grown men and women vaguely performing the task in question, as with the woman who seems to be measuring wood at a male-dominated construction site in answer to “Girls don’t build things.” Except for the cover photograph of a blue-shirted boy shyly holding a doll near a pink-clad girl with a toy airplane, all the children in the photographs are shown in traditional gender roles.
Since the book was originally published in French, one might excuse the text as “lost in translation,” but that cannot exonerate the photographs. (Picture book. 2-5)