I’m Not A Girl (Maddox Lyons & Jessica Verdi)

Hello, friends! Our book today is I’m Not A Girl, written by Maddox Lyons and Jessica Verdi, and illustrated by Dana Simpson, a touching and empowering story about a young child’s journey of self-discovery and self-actualization.

The red-headed narrator opens our story by explaining that today is picture day – he HATES picture day, because he always has to wear a dress. Just like at Halloween, when the salesperson and Mom only let him pick costumes from the girl’s side. He tries to communicate the things he wants – like cutting his hair short – but people just don’t seem to listen. The little boy isn’t a tomboy, and he acknowledges that there’s nothing wrong with being a girl – but he is NOT a girl, and nobody seems to understand that. That is, until the day he meets a pair of new friends at the pool who teach him a new word: transgender. Suddenly, our young hero has the words to explain how he feels, and he might just be ready to show his parents, and the world, who he really is.

Wonderful. Written from the perspective of a transgender child, this story of gender discovery and transition does a fantastic job of walking readers through the emotional frustrations and triumphs that accompany that journey. Co-authors Lyons (who is himself transgender) and Verdi do an incredible job of explaining the feelings of living with gender dysphoria in a way that audiences young and old can empathize with. Simpson, also transgender, puts a great deal of heart into the artwork, and while the composition can occasionally feel flat, the emotions of the characters are beautifully portrayed through facial expressions; the final illustration and Easter egg in the backmatter tug the heartstrings. The length is great, and JJ and I both loved this one – it was a great way to celebrate the anniversary of the Stonewall uprisings and have our own conversation on gender identity. Overall, this is a great book to introduce the concept of being transgender, for kids who may be struggling with their own dysphoria and for allies who want to better understand their perspective. We highly recommend this one, 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.)

If You’re a Drag Queen and You Know It (Lil Miss Hot Mess)

Hello, friends! Sorry we missed our review yesterday, but we’re making it up with a special Saturday review! And in honor of the season, our book today is If You’re a Drag Queen and You Know It, written by Lil Miss Hot Mess and illustrated by Olga de Dios, the sequel to last year’s wonderful The Hips on the Drag Queen Go Swish, Swish, Swish.

The queens of The Hips on the Drag Queen are back with a whole new house of glamorous, fabulous performers. With text based off of the rhythm to “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” readers young and old are invited to strike a pose, blow a kiss, and laugh real big with fierce (fictional) queens like Retta Booke, Kitty Caboodle, and Mini Queenie Miney Mo.

Colorful, inclusive fun. Much like its predecessor, this title takes a well-known action song and puts a drag-themed twist on it, encouraging young audiences to dance and move, or (to JJ’s delight) laugh and shout. The actions in the book are fun and creative, and are sure to engage little ones. The rhythm does occasionally stumble over that extra syllable when reading aloud (especially during the last line of each refrain), but it’s easy to adjust for after a few repetitions. There’s less of a visual “story” here than the previous book, which I was a little disappointed by, but the diverse representation of the queens themselves is another treasure trove that makes up for this, not only of LGBTQ+ culture, but of things like skin color, body type, and ability. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ had a fantastic time shaking, winking, and shouting “yes, QUEEN” along with the characters. Overall, a worthy follow-up to one of our favorite books from last year, and we highly recommend it. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

I Want to Be a Vase (Julio Torres)

Hello, friends! Our book today is I Want to Be a Vase, written by Julio Torres and illustrated by Julian Glander, a hilariously irreverent and thought-provoking look at identity.

It’s a quiet day in the bathroom of the apartment when the plunger makes an unexpected announcement: “I want to be a vase.” Its bathroom compatriots react with various levels of surprise and disapproval, none more so than the vacuum cleaner. Yet the plunger is undeterred; it ventures through the living room and into the kitchen procuring some fresh-cut flowers and tape, and reinvents itself. Many of the kitchen’s objects are confused at first, but the pot readily accepts the plunger’s new identity; after all, the pot has always dreamed of being a trash can. Suddenly, objects all over the apartment are happily finding new uses and identities, much to the vacuum cleaner’s dismay! Will the objects be set straight – or were they right to chase their dreams all along?

Hysterical and insightful. Torres’s incredibly amusing conversational text (differing fonts and outline colors deftly signal each speaker) pairs beautifully with Glander’s spectacularly stylized 3D digital illustrations to tell a bizarre yet oddly universal story about self-actualization. While some of the objects’ chosen identities are played for laughs (“I want to be a pillow too!” cries a mirror, “A sharp, breakable, dangerous pillow!”), the arguments for rejecting an assigned identity that is uncomfortable or unfulfilling, as well as the final understanding that accepting those identities makes everyone happier in the long run, are very much drawn from real-life. Young readers, who have no problem seeing the possibilities of what objects can be beyond their intended uses, will easily grasp the concept, as well as the comedy of the sharp dialogue and colorful artwork. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ absolutely LOVED this one; she was screaming with laughter by the fourth page, and joyfully helped the book itself realize its own dream of exploring new opportunities. This is a strange book, but an utterly delightful one. Overall, a whip-smart and wonderfully silly read, 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.)

Big Wig (Jonathan Hillman)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Big Wig, written by Jonathan Hillman and illustrated by Levi Hastings, a story of finding one’s inner fabulousity.

Meet Wig, a vibrant magenta Dolly Parton-inspired bouffant. Wig belongs to young drag performer B. B. Bedazzle, and is excited to help her queen compete in the Big Wig Ball drag contest. Initially, she grows with pride, but when she sees the other wigs that she’s up against, she begins to feel anxious and “wigs out”, fleeing B. B.’s head and the stage to take cover in the crowd. Can Wig find her inner confidence in time for the big competition?

An ambitious tale with an unfortunately mixed message. I’m delighted to see drag culture making its way into another picture book, and the core theme, finding confidence by being your authentic self, is always one worth exploring, especially for audiences that may include young LGBTQ+ readers. However, other aspects of the story feel lost in translation. For instance, whenever Wig finds sanctuary on the head of another child in the audience, that child transforms into the fabulous drag performer of their dreams. It’s a nice notion, but since nearly all of these expressions are feminine, it also sends the message that wearing a wig feminizes the wearer. And while it’s nice that Wig is helping others find their inner self, she’s also regaining her self-confidence based on the approval of strangers (and notably, not her friend B. B.), suggesting that validation should come from outside sources rather than from within, or even from trusted loved ones. There are some nice moments, especially in the vividly colorful illustrations, such as B. B.’s parents enthusiastic support of her drag persona, hints that B. B. has a wide range of interests both traditionally-masculine and -feminine, and some considerations towards diverse characters in crowd scenes. The length was good for a storytime, and JJ liked the energetic story and artwork. Overall, this one a mixed bag. As a story that highlights and affirms drag, it’s a treat, but as a tale of self-acceptance, it misses the mark. Still, with some follow-up discussion, this one is worth a look – Baby Bookworm approved!

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

This Little Rainbow: A Love-Is-Love Primer (Joan Holub & Daniel Roode)

Hello, friends! Our book today is This Little Rainbow: A Love-Is-Love Primer by Joan Holub and Daniel Roode, the latest title in the duo’s This Little board book series, this time focusing on notable LGBTQ+ heroes from history.

In this adorable and colorful board book, beginner bookworms can learn about LGBTQ+ luminaries who worked for change and made enormous impacts on humanity. From great artists and thinkers like Alan Turing, Freddie Mercury, and Leonardo da Vinci, to activists and pathfinders like Harvey Milk, Marsha P. Johnson, and Shane Ortega, the youngest bookworms can learn what it means to be a “rainbow” – to live trans and/or queer with a big, loving heart.

AWESOME. While the entirety of the This Little series is worth checking out (we are big fans of This Little Trailblazer), this primer boldly offers a LGBTQ+-friendly message that can be enjoyed by all ages. Though the rhyming text is occasionally bumpy – especially when read aloud – everything else about the title wins: the adorable, colorful illustrations, the excellent choices for featured subjects (Pride flag designers Gilbert Baker and Daniel Quasar were wonderful surprises, as was the oft-straightwashed da Vinci), and the final page that features fifteen bonus heroes and a glossary of LGBTQ+-related terms. The length is perfect for a quick storytime, and JJ adored it – it’s already made it’s way into the bedtime book rotation. A fantastic read for any bookworm that celebrates LGBTQ+ notables and the big ways they made art, made history, and helped the world. Baby Bookworm approved!

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