Everybody’s Welcome (Patricia Hegarty)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Everybody’s Welcome, written by Patricia Hegarty and illustrated by Greg Abbott, a sweet tale of communities built from acceptance.

A little mouse sits in a forest clearing, dreaming of a home for shelter and warmth. As he begins to build it, a frog wanders up, despondent over the loss of his own home pond. The mouse invites him to help build, and they will share the house together. As the project continues, more animals show up, looking for a place to belong; most have lost their homes or been turned away from their communities for being different. Together, they work as a team to build something to shelter everyone who needs it, creating a home that is more than walls and a roof, but acceptance and love as well.

This one had a wonderfully sweet message that is thoroughly needed right now. While the issues that lead the animals to the housing project are very storybook-oriented (Bear is turned away for being too scary, the birds are searching for a home after their tree has been cut down), there is definitely hints of how people can also find themselves in need of community due to their circumstances. It helps to draw a nice parallel to our own communities, and how diversity and acceptance can help them to be strong and kind. So it’s a bit of an odd choice that the finished product of the home is never shown; while this may be alluding to the fact that communities are forever growing and changing, or that home is not simply a building but the people who fill it, it still gives the story an incomplete feeling – I wish I could have seen the animals enjoying the physical fruits of their labor. However, the classical kidlit-inspired illustrations are darling, and JJ loved them. The length is also fine for any age, and the cutouts and unique page design make for some fun visual flourishes. So while the ending is a little abrupt, this one has a strong core message and some great visuals – it’s definitely worth a look. Baby Bookworm approved!

Top 5: LGBTQ Books – Part 2

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Hello, friends! We’re here with a new Top 5 list for the month of June! And while June has many lovely holidays and themes to celebrate, we thought we’d take a look at one that’s dear to our hearts: LGBTQ Pride! We’ll already compiled one list of some of our favorite books with LGBTQ themes (which can be found here), so we’re back to kick off Pride Month with part two! It includes some of our favorite books that help introduce little readers to what the LGBTQ community and Pride are all about: acceptance, understanding, and the right to be who you are and love who you love.

Here’s our Top 5 LGBTQ Books, Part 2:

1. This Day In June (Gayle E. Pitman, illus. Kristyna Litten)

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Told in cheerful rhyming couplets, the scene is set on a city getting ready for a very  special parade! As the parade begins, people of all kinds march down the street: women on motorcycles, people dressed in rainbows and waving flags, musicians and performers and children and animals. Some of them look different, some are dressed in their own way, but all of them are there to celebrate one thing: unity. For on this day in June, it doesn’t matter who you are, what you look like, or whom you love; all that matters is that you come and be proud of who you are, inside and out.

“The text is simple, sweet rhymes that flow well and introduce children to some of the basics of a Pride celebration: rainbows, unity, acceptance. From there, joyfully colorful illustrations are packed with both widely- and lesser-known Pride traditions and LGBT+ groups […]. An extremely comprehensive Reading Guide in the back provides tons of information and history on Pride and LGBT+ culture, and a Parents’ Guide covers how to talk to children of all ages about gender identity and orientation. This is a phenomenally versatile book that celebrates Pride in a way that is honest yet accessible, and carries the message that who you are is always a thing to be celebrated.”

2. Introducing Teddy: A Gentle Story About Gender And Friendship (Jessica Walton, illus. Dougal MacPherson)

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Errol and Thomas the Teddy are the best of pals. Every day they play together, eat together, and go on adventures together. One day, Thomas is sad, and nothing seems to cheer him up. When Errol asks his friend to tell him what’s wrong, Thomas nervously confides that he is afraid to tell Errol for fear of losing their friendship. Thomas has grown up as a boy teddy bear, but he feels in his heart that he is a girl teddy. He no longer wants to be “Thomas,” but “Tilly” instead. Errol hugs his friend tight, and assures Tilly that no matter what name, appearance, or gender makes Tilly feel most comfortable, Errol will always be Tilly’s best friend.

“As the subtitle says, it’s very gentle: the only conflict to be found is Tilly’s indecision, and she is readily accepted and supported by Errol and their friend Ava. Every detail related to gender identity is spot-on: there are no gender stereotypes (boys have tea parties, girls build robots), no extended questioning of Tilly’s gender […], no assumption that her preferred gender will affect her personality (Errol and Tilly go back to doing the same things everyday that Errol and “Thomas” did). The illustrations are adorable, with a soothing color palate and a certain sweetness that sits well in the heart. […]Best of all, it’s a story about being yourself, the right to feel comfortable in your own skin, and being a good friend.”

3. Stella Brings The Family (Miriam B. Schiffer, illus. Holly Clifton-Brown)

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At school, Stella’s teacher announces that the class will be having a Mother’s Day celebration, and the kids are excited. Everyone in class has a mom to bring (Howie has two!), but Stella isn’t sure who to invite, as she has two daddies. Sure, her daddies do all the things that the other kids’ mommies do: make her lunch, help with homework, and tuck her in. Stella decides to invite her whole family to the party, because while she may not have a mom, she has plenty of people who love and support her.

“What is presented as a feather-light and sweet story about non-traditional families is actually one with great depth that focuses on what defines a “family” outside of societal constructs. Stella and her fathers are considered a family unit from the start, and are never portrayed as something Stella or her classmates are ashamed of or upset by. The question is never “Who is Stella’s mommy?” or “Doesn’t Stella need a mommy?,” instead asking the broader question of “What makes a family?” It then follows this is up by showing that one can have maternal influences (even male ones!) without necessarily having a mother in their life.”

4. We Are Family (Patricia Hegarty, illus. Ryan Wheatcroft)

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Following ten very different families – including nuclear families of different skintones, LGBTQ families, a blended family, a single-parent family, the family of a disabled child, etc. – the simple rhyming texts explores what makes a family. As we see, while the families may look different, they still care for each other when sick, eat meals together, spend time together, help each other through the hard times, and show each other support and love.

“Truly inclusive picture books are always a wonderful to see, and this one did a tremendous job of representing families of different shapes and sizes. I especially like the choice to stay with the ten core families through the majority of the book – it teaches and reinforces the message that yes, families with gay parents or with children being raised by grandparents or of a different color than the reader indeed do all the same things they do, from wakeup until bedtime […].”

5. Not Quite Narwhal (Jessie Sima)

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Kelp was born under the ocean, but isn’t quite like the other narwhals. Still, he loves his home and his friends, who always make him feel safe and loved. But one day, a strong current sweeps Kelp away from his home. He ends up near an island, where he sees a fabulous creature that looks just like him! He learns that the animal is called a unicorn, and he is one too! The unicorns welcome him gladly, and teach him more about being a unicorn. Yet while Kelp is happy to be with unicorns like him, he misses his narwhal friends in the ocean. Kelp is caught between two worlds – which should he choose?

“The story was wonderfully sweet, and had a lot of great humor. The illustrations are just adorable, full of colors and charming characters […]. Best of all is the message: there’s nothing wrong with being different, even from your own family. Kelp’s experiences with the narwhals and unicorns can especially be read as a touching allegory for being LGBTQ or adopted, with both communities loving him, even his connection to each bringing the two groups together to bond. It’s a great way to show children that with supportive friends and family, being different can be the very thing that makes you special.”

That’s our list! And stay tuned: we’ll be reading more books all this month that celebrate Pride! Did we miss any of your favorites? Do you have a book you would like to recommend to us? Let us know in the comments, or message us from our Contact page. Thanks so much!

We Are Family (Patricia Hegarty)

Hello, friends! Our book today is We Are Family, written by Patricia Hegarty and illustrated by Ryan Wheatcroft, a phenomenally inclusive ode to family in all its shapes and forms.

Following ten very different families – including nuclear families of different skintones, LGBTQ families, a blended family, a single-parent family, the family of a disabled child, etc. – the simple rhyming texts explores what makes a family. As we see, while the families may look different, they still care for each other when sick, eat meals together, spend time together, help each other through the hard times, and show each other support and love. Readers are easily shown that no matter what a family looks like, the only definitive thing that makes a family is the love its members share.

Quite simply, we adored it. Truly inclusive picture books are always a wonderful to see, and this one did a tremendous job of representing families of different shapes and sizes. I especially like the choice to stay with the ten core families through the majority of the book – it teaches and reinforces the message that yes, families with gay parents or with children being raised by grandparents or of a different color than the reader indeed do all the same things they do, from wakeup until bedtime (there’s a brief look at more families in the interior front and back cover pages). The illustrations are bright, colorful, friendly and detailed, and feature lots of activities and objects that young beginning readers can explore with their adult. The length is perfect, and while the rhymes are occasionally a little arrhythmic, they flow well for the most part. Plus, JJ loved the art. A phenomenal look at the things that all families share, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!