Roland Humphrey is Wearing What? – Book Review

roalndTitle: Roland Humphrey is Wearing WHAT?

Written by: Eileen Kiernan-Johnson

Illustrated by: Katrina Revenaugh

Published by: Huntley Rahara Press, 2012

Ages: 4 upwards

Themes: peer pressure, gender conformity, tolerance, self-acceptance,

Openings Lines:

“That’s right,” chimed in Lucy, who readily agreed,                                                          here are some helpful pointers you need.

Since you’re a boy, pink isn’t allowed—                                                                                 not if you want to be in with the crowd.”

Synopsis: 

Roland Humphrey is a little boy who is creative, smart, athletic and silly with quite an array of interests and a strong preference for his own unique dress style and colors. He is confused and upset as he starts school and discovers an unwritten set of rules of interests and dress to which boys are meant to conform. His “friends” Lucy and Ella continue to ply him with do and don’t lists of what is expected of him as a boy. Fortunately Roland Humphrey has a very understanding Mom and when he explains his confusion about why it’s okay for little girls to wear jeans and play football but not okay for little boys to wear dresses and like ballet, she has just the right encouragement for him. He needs to choose whether to conform to peer pressure or be his authentic self and risk losing some friends.

Why I like this Book:

I appreciate Roland Humphrey’s courage in challenging the lack of logic and compassion in his friends’ sets of gender rules. His decision to be authentic to himself, with encouragement from his Mom, opens the eyes of his friends to their prejudice and how silly it would be to lose a friend over the color pink! While addressing specifically gender norms, this story lends itself to exploring the diversity children might encounter in cultural, educational and socio-economic backgrounds. All children have different experiences  and varied interests in life. This is a welcome addition to the picture book ranks encouraging tolerance, especially of young children exploring gender norms, and the message is very hopeful. The lists the girls create are ultra typical, especially of little girls, and humor is used well to enliven the strong message. The unusual use of pattern and shape in the colorful illustrations is intriguing. The message is awesome but the choice of a fairly lengthy text, written in rhyming couplets is perhaps not the best format for this picture book, which I feel would have been better served by prose. That said, I do think the story is strong and it makes a good read-aloud. Children will latch onto Roland Humphrey’s fun personality and courage with ease. Why shouldn’t a little boy like baseball and barrettes in his hair? Isn’t this title catchy?

This book has been provided to me free of charge by the author in exchange for an honest review of the work.

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10 Responses to Roland Humphrey is Wearing What? – Book Review

  1. I love the cover and the message! My parents never told Josie and I we had to or couldn’t do things because of being a boy or girl. I like to read books and my sister races a go kart – that’s just fine!

  2. Joanna says:

    That is SO just fine, Erik, and yay for kids and parents who get this!

  3. Hooray for differences and tolerance! I bought my boys dolls, dollhouse, jacks, and other things that are traditionally thought of as “girls’ toys” to play with when they were little. While they didn’t play with them that much (preferring LEGO, which is fine since it WAS a gender-neutral toy that I grew up playing with too), I like to think that I at least gave them an option.

  4. Great cover — yeah for Humphrey for challenging traditional norms. I think many more kids would do so, if given the freedom. Like how he chooses his own path. Great pick Joanna. Hadn’t heard of this one!

  5. Joanna says:

    It takes courage for an elementary student to buck the norms, but I think with supportive parents, peers and teachers this is possible.

  6. Cathy Mealey says:

    Huntley Rahara Press looks like it has many great things in store if it is starting out with such a strong book!

  7. Laura Boffa says:

    Sounds like a great book! As much as I’d like to think that strict gender roles are changing, I still hear my students talking about “girl colors” and “boy colors,” not to mention clothes, toys, and games all the time.
    Thanks for sharing!

  8. Joanna says:

    Laura, while things have improved I do think the more ways we can model this, including books, the better for our children.

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