Illustrated by Katrina Revenaugh
Huntley Rahara Press
I was happy to receive a complimentary copy of this book in the mail the other day, and I found it to be a fun little tale, lively written, and pretty cool cut paper illustrations which really bound with joy on every page.
It is the story about a boy who wears dresses - and tiaras, and sparkly butterflies - and his parents who try to encourage him, and these fiendish girls who constantly rag him about it. "Your sparkles are really starting to annoy. When you wear clothes for girls, how do we know you're a boy?"
It seemed to me clearly to be a book written for families dealing with this very issue themselves, and how to handle it, so that they know they are not alone. Though I thought the prose bounced along cleverly enough that I could see it having more widespread appeal, such as:
If girls can wear boy clothes, why not the reverse?
Do colors have meaning? Is purple inherently perverse?
All the colors are brought out and disected, some are boyish, some are girlish, the proper things that boys should be interested in and not interested in are listed in detail. The further and further it went, the less it seemed to me to be about one particular boy who just happens to like pretty, pretty things, but a good rumination in general on why it is that such things are so divided by gender. As the parent of a non-cross-dressing boy who loves trucks and fashions anythig into a gun, these issues do come up regardless.
Not surprisingly, the book was written about the author's own son. Looking her up, I found her blog which I felt was pretty interesting, and goes into more detail and emotional honesty than the upbeat ending of the book delivers: "We like you for you, whatever you wear."
After her son had decided that he wanted to start wearing boy clothes because of the comments of some of his classmates, Kiernan-Johnson writes: "I suppose it was inevitable that the weight of peer pressure would reach him at some point. I just imagined that it would be further down the road, that we’d have more time to inhabit our happy little bubble of authenticity, that he could obliviously be who he is without the burden of arbitrary societal dictates intruding on that. It isn’t that I want my son to waltz through life in a ballgown; it is that I don’t want the world to crush his spirit and stamp out his unique way of being. I don’t want it to burst his bubble."
I don't think she has to worry about the world crushing his spirits just yet (that doesn't happen until you start working), but it did make going back reading the joyful exuberance of "Roland Humphrey" a bit bittersweet, and for me, more meaningful.