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!