Aalfred And Aalbert (Morag Hood)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Aalfred And Aalbert by Morag Hood, a charming love story.

Aalfred and Aalbert are aardvarks, their burrows dug mere feet from each other. Yet despite this, the two have never met; Aalfred is nocturnal and Aalbert only comes out in the day. Not realizing the other’s proximity, the two aardvarks go about their routines and explore their interests: Aalfred loves stars, broccoli, and picnics, while Aalbert is passionate about flowers, sunshine, and cheese (same). They’re happy in their day-to-days, but occasionally wish for a companion to share it with – and with the assistance of a matchmaking bluebird, they may find that love is closer than they ever imagined.

What a lovely book! Every element – from the simple, funny story, to the sweet and kind characters, to the charmingly adorable illustrations – comes together to form a short and sweet tale that will warm any romantic’s heart. The bluebird’s numerous failed attempts at matchmaking are hilarious visual gags, and the utter sweetness of Aalfred and Aalbert makes them so deeply endearing that you could find yourself a little misty-eyed at their happily-ever-after. Yet perhaps best of all are the subtle messages about love that the story tells: while the titular aardvarks hope for companionship, this is not the focus of their lives. Aalfred and Aalbert are happy, fulfilled, and well-rounded creatures all on their own, and are not depicted as “incomplete” without mates; what a fantastic message to send kids about the role of romantic relationships in one’s life. Furthermore, the fact that Aalfred and Aalbert are presented as a same-sex couple without fanfare or it being central to the plot is remarkably refreshing. JJ adored the little aardvarks and their bird friend, and I am happy to have a book for her that illustrates such an inclusive and positive model of love. A quiet and romantic gem of a book, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved.

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

When Aidan Became A Brother (Kyle Lukoff)

Hello, friends! Our book today is When Aidan Became A Brother, written by Kyle Lukoff and illustrated by Kaylani Juanita, a very unique story of a little boy becoming a big brother.

When Aidan was born, everyone thought he was a girl. So they decorated his room in “girly” colors and gave him a girl’s name and put him in pretty dresses. But when he grew bigger, Aidan realized that he hated all those girly things; of course, so did some of the other girls too, but Aidan didn’t feel like those types of girls – he felt like another type of boy. When he told his parents, they supported him and helped him transition, and now he’s happy being a boy, and most excited to be a big brother to his little sibling-to-be. He wants to make sure that the new baby will feel welcome and loved no matter who they are. But how can he do that, especially when the world can still be such a confusing place for him? Aidan’s willing to try – he’s determined to be the best big brother he can.

What an lovely and unexpected book. While the story centers around a transgender child, the main theme is not solely about being trans, but how we view gender. Telling it from the point of view of Aidan – a young child who has already spent his childhood examining gender roles by necessity – allows readers both young and old to question along with him as he ponders why it should matter if the new baby is a boy or girl, or how it should affect how they are dressed or treated. It allows the book to have a great range of themes: it’s a new baby book, and a book about growing up trans, and a book about societal views on gender, and a book about love and family, and a book about how there are lots of ways to be a boy or a girl, and more. It’s fresh and striking and can open up opportunities for many discussions. The artwork is the cherry on top, using bright patterns and expressive faces to create emotion and warmth. Even the author’s note is a touching reminder that by being true to ourselves, we make the world brighter and more wonderful. The length was great, and JJ loved it too. Absolutely superb, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

Stonewall: A Building. An Uprising. A Revolution. (Rob Sanders)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Stonewall: A Building. An Uprising. A Revolution., written by Rob Sanders and illustrated by Jamey Christoph, the first picture book about the Stonewall Uprising.

Told from the point of view of the Stonewall Inn itself, the building(s), built in 1840s as two separate stables, describe their colorful history throughout the years: converted from stable houses to a bakery, then a restaurant, all as the surrounding Greenwich Village of NYC became known as a place of inclusivity. In the 60’s, the building found itself host to the Stonewall Inn, a club for the then-mostly-underground LGBTQ+ community. It was a place where gay, lesbian, trans, and other members of community could go to be who they were with the people they loved. However, its patrons were systematically harassed by police, who would raid the club frequently. That is, until the night of June 28, 1969, when an act of civil disobedience grew into movement that would define a community forever.

FIFTY. YEARS. That’s how long it took to get a picture book about the Stonewall Uprising, and how wonderful it is that this is the result. The choice to narrate from the buildings’ point of view is inspired – it allows for broad point of view of events that still feels personal and warm, and Sanders manages to endow its narrative with empathy and affection. Christoph’s illustrations are equally lovely, showing a diverse range of the LGBTQ+ community and capturing scenes of protest and revolution in sweeping grandeur. I’m a little disappointed that trans women of color – who are frequently cited as firebrand figures in the uprising – are not covered more (the inciting figure is shown to be a blond woman, likely Stormé DeLarverie, though she is not mentioned by name); however, their contribution is alluded to, both in the text and in the backmatter, which features information on Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera specifically. The length is fine, and JJ was fascinated by the illustrations. Overall, this is a pretty incredible book to finally introduce a watershed moment to little readers. Baby Bookworm approved!

It Feels Good To Be Yourself: A Book About Gender Identity (Theresa Thorn)

Hello, friends – we’re back! And with a book that’s perfect for our first Pride Month review: It Feels Good To Be Yourself: A Book About Gender Identity, written by Theresa Thorn and illustrated by Noah Grigni.

Meet Ruthie. She is a transgender girl; when she was little, everyone thought she was a boy, but when she was old enough to speak for herself, she let everyone know the truth. Her brother Xavier is a cisgender boy; when he was little, everyone thought he was a boy, and they were right! They also have friends like Alex – who is both a boy and a girl – and JJ, who doesn’t feel like either. Alex and JJ are non-binary, and just like there are lots of ways to be a boy or a girl, there are lots of ways to be non-binary as well! No matter what gender someone identifies as, the most important thing is that they are loved, supported, and free to be themselves – doesn’t it feel good to be yourself?

LOVE. Taking a concept that is often overwrought or misconstrued and simplifying it down to its core elements, this child-friendly look at the spectrum of gender covers a lot of ground without ever feeling overwhelming or confusing. Especially wonderful is the way the illustrations explore further elements, such as diversity, intersectionality and non-gendered clothing and play, giving kids and parents even more avenues to discuss all the wonderful ways we can be different. The text can feel a little repetitive in areas, but it’s not out of place with such important and complex topic, and the ultimate lesson is about loving yourself and feeling free to express who you are in whatever way makes you feel comfortable. JJ especially enjoyed the rich colors of the art (and that she shared a name with one of the characters). The length was great, the wealth of backmatter encourages further education, and we loved it. A great way to explore questions about gender as a family, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Sparkle Boy (Lesléa Newman)

Hello, friends! Our review today is Sparkle Boy, written by Lesléa Newman and illustrated by Maria Mola, the story of a little girl learning to accept her brother for who he is.

The day Jessie puts on her shimmery skirt, her little brother Casey asks for one too. Their mother sees no harm, and lets Casey have one of Jessie’s old skirts. Later, Casey also wants to emulate his big sister’s glittery nail polish, which his father gladly applies. Their abuelita loans Jessie one of her sparkly bracelets – and one to Casey too! Jessie is upset, insisting that these things aren’t for boys, and is outraged when her mom allows Casey to wear his outfit to the library. But when Jessie sees older children bullying Casey, she begins to understand how hurtful her attitude has been, and decides to take a stand.

As a metaphor for how friends and family, even well-meaning, often ask their LGBTQ+ loved ones to dim their shine for the sake of appearances, it’s spot on; especially when Jessie asks if they can just paint Casey’s toes and hide them under socks (Casey exclaims “no!”, wanting nails just like his sister’s). Jessie seeing the negative attitudes of strangers – and their effect on Casey – show her that she is no different than the bullies shaming him for expressing himself. However, from a child’s point of view, this metaphor may be a little vague. It might have helped if Jessie’s initial anger had been explained better (such as the common big-sibling irritation of younger siblings “copying” them), but her displeasure seems to stem from prejudice, which makes her sudden change of heart harder to understand for little readers. Still, there is a happy ending here, and it can help show children why these sorts of views are hurtful. Otherwise, the art is darling and detailed, the length is fine and JJ enjoyed it. This one might warrant a post-story discussion, but overall it’s Baby Bookworm approved!