Bling Blaine: Throw Glitter, Not Shade (Rob Sanders)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Bling Blaine: Throw Glitter, Not Shade, written by Rob Sanders and illustrated by Letizia Rizzo, a primer for young readers on how to be an ally.

Blaine loves all things sparkly: spangles, sequins, glitter, and shine – it can never be too much for him. His love of glitz brings light into the lives of his friends at Freedom Elementary School (as does his motto, “throw glitter, not shade!”). So when questioning kids – and adults – express confusion at Blaine’s particularity, his pals are there to explain that Blaine simply enjoys sparkles they way that they enjoy hoodies or high tops. However, the cruel looks and comments of his detractors upset Blaine, and he decides to leave his sparkles at home. Without his glitter, both literal and metaphorical, school becomes a far drearier place. What can Blaine’s friends do to restore his shine?

A smart and welcome look at allyship for little bookworms. Blaine is not specifically stated to be LGBTQ+, but rather gender-nonconforming, which works in both the metaphor of LGBTQ+ allyship and the very real consideration of the prejudice that gender-nonconforming children often face. Also impactful is the fact that Blaine suffers the derision of both children AND adults, a painful yet honest real-life truth. Blaine’s friends eventually show their support by “blinging” themselves out as well, and tackling the difficult conversations with Blaine’s critics on why their behavior is wrong and hurtful. This, along with the backmatter that provides tips on being an ally, is the best of the book, as it encourages young allies to support, listen, and adjust based on the emotional needs of the person they are supporting. And while the resolution of the book is a little lacking (Blaine DEFINITELY deserved some sincere apologies, especially from the adult library volunteer), the core message is strong and extremely welcome. Diverse, colorful art fits the tone perfectly, especially as the brightness of the art ebbs and flows with Blaine’s emotions. The length is great for a quick storytime, and JJ and I enjoyed it thoroughly. A great way to introduce allyship to kids, 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!

Julián Is A Mermaid (Jessica Love)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Julián Is A Mermaid by Jessica Love, a gorgeous tale of pride and acceptance for a gender nonconforming boy.

Riding the train with his abuela, Julián is delighted when three beautiful women dressed as mermaids get on board. Julián imagines himself as a mermaid, growing a tail of his own and long, beautiful hair that waves gently through the ocean, making friends with the sea creatures who love and accept him. When he and Abuela arrive home, Julián tell her that he wants to be a mermaid too, but Abuela simply instructs him to be good as she takes a bath. As she bathes, Julián is struck with inspiration: he sheds his normal clothes and crafts a mermaid outfit for himself, with a headdress of flowers and palm fronds, a long flowing tail made from a curtain, and a pop of lipstick to complete the look. Enjoying his new ensemble, he doesn’t hear his abuela exit her bath, and finds her staring at him in silence. At first, the reader and Julián think he must be in trouble… until he finds that acceptance is not only found in the sea.

Absolutely gorgeous. We’ve read a few lovely books this month about trans and gender nonconforming little ones, but this is definitely my favorite so far. The story is simple, subtle, but incredibly moving. The rich, earthy-colored illustrations need only minimal text to assist in getting the message across, but what is there is equally, perfectly understated. And the visual symbolism strikes a perfect tone, using texture, motion, color, and pattern to explore Julián’s hidden world of imagination and connect it to the reality of his quietly supportive abuela. The length is perfect, and JJ adored the art. A beautiful story for little mermaids of all genders, and it’s emphatically Baby Bookworm approved.