Harrison Dwight fights dragons but not his feelings.
With unpoetic rhymes, a sledgehammer of an already-overdone message, and cartoonish illustrations that mirror the text rather than extending it, this text barely meets any standards of the picture-book form. It’s easy to understand, at least; rhyming couplets (with shaky scansion) use simple words, with concepts so excruciatingly spelled out that readers won’t be left wondering what conclusions they’re supposed to draw. At first the narrative focuses on Harrison Dwight, a boy with floppy hair who is “a ballet dancer. I’m also a knight!” After this brief introduction, the story tells readers what to do and how to feel: “Fighting is no way to solve what’s gone wrong. / If we just talk it out, we can all get along,” and “Girls and boys both sometimes feel sad. / It’s a brave thing to cry; don’t fear that it’s bad.” Gender-nonconforming behavior in picture books is typically reduced to depictions of cis boys engaging in typically feminine activities, and this book breaks no ground in that regard, even with a few depictions of girls and women watching football and discovering cold fusion. Harrison has beige skin and brown hair; his blonde, white mom and light-brown–skinned, black-haired dad suggest he may be biracial.
Gender stereotypes have been a widely explored subject since William’s Doll, if not before; readers are encouraged to seek out something, anything, before this cack-handed attempt. (Picture book. 3-6)