This expansive, straightforward framing of gender emphasizes curiosity, joy, and positive self-expression.
In Thorn’s uplifting picture-book debut, young readers meet four children: Ruthie, a thin, transgender girl with light brown skin; Xavier, Ruthie’s cisgender brother, who also has brown skin; Alex, a pale-skinned, round-bodied kid who is “both a boy and a girl”; and JJ, a brown-skinned child who uses a wheelchair and who is “neither a boy nor a girl.” Through plain, intentional language, Thorn normalizes each child’s gender identity and skillfully introduces the multifaceted concept of nonbinary gender: “Just like there are many different ways to be a boy or a girl, there are many different ways to be non-binary—too many to fit in a book!” As the main characters move through their vibrant neighborhood, families and children are portrayed with a prismatic array of gender expressions, skin colors, and physical features. Nonbinary illustrator Grigni’s full-bleed images are magical in their jewel-toned palette. Among gender-centered picture books, this one stands out for its dazzling #ownvoices art and its simple yet nuanced phrasing—particularly when Ruthie shares her true gender with her family, and her parents (an interracial couple) respond with a loving group hug. “Oops! Ruthie was a girl all along—they just didn’t know it at first.” Giving kids and adults a hopeful model for discussing (and embracing) one another’s gender is just one of the gifts offered by this valuable narrative.
Exceptional. (glossary, resources, note on pronouns, author’s note, illustrator’s note) (Picture book. 3-9)