Sparkle Boy – Perfect Picture Book Friday

Title: Sparkle Boy

Author: Lesléa Newman

Illustrator: Maria Mola

Publisher: Lee and Low, 2017

Ages: 4-8

Themes: brothers and sisters, self expression, lgbtqia+, bullying, diversity

Genre: fiction

4o pages

Opening:

Jessie adored all things glittery, shimmery and sparkly.
“Look at my shimmery skirt,” Jessie said to her little brother, Casey, as she twirled into the living room and her skirt twirled out all around her.
Casey looked up from his alphabet blocks. “Ooh, shimmery, shimmery,” he said reaching out his hand. “I want shimmery.”

Synopsis:

Casey loves to play with his blocks, puzzles, and dump truck, but he also loves things that sparkle, shimmer, and glitter. When his older sister, Jessie, shows off her new shimmery skirt, Casey wants to wear a shimmery skirt too. When Jessie comes home from a party with glittery nails, Casey wants glittery nails too. And when Abuelita visits wearing an armful of sparkly bracelets, Casey gets one to wear, just like Jessie.

The adults in Casey’s life embrace his interests, but Jessie isn t so sure. Boys aren’t supposed to wear sparkly, shimmery, glittery things. Then, when older boys at the library tease Casey for wearing girl things, Jessie realizes that Casey has the right to be himself and wear whatever he wants. Why can’t both she and Casey love all things shimmery, glittery, and sparkly?

Here is a sweet, heartwarming story about acceptance, respect, and the freedom to be yourself in a world where any and every gender expression should be celebrated. Sparkly things are for everyone to enjoy!

Why I like this book:

The little boy in this story isn’t per se into dressing up in girls clothes but shows a particular interest in things that are “sparkly”, “shimmery”, and “glittery” (as well as blocks, puzzles, and dump truck.) If his big sister Jessie had been into sparkly hairbands or sneakers, Casey would probably have wanted to copy her just the same but in this story she is wearing a shimmery skirt. This subtle choice of focus by the author will, I believe, help more kids relate to Casey’s interests. Casey’s parents and grandmother are very supportive of Casey’s desire to try on sparkly stuff despite his sister’s initial reservations. But she is the one to rush to his support when Casey is bullied by the boys in the library. 

The illustrations of the family, and use of Spanish vocabulary like abuelita show the readers that this is a Hispanic family and we certainly need many more picture books with diverse children exploring their gender identity. The illustrations are warm and inviting and the story carries a gentle universal message of respect and encouragement to be yourself, while confronting certain stereotypes.

Resources/Activities:

Next time you pull out the dress up box, make a point of letting kids know that can pick whatever they want to wear. Encourage expression and experimentation that brings joy.

How about doing some self portraits where everyone can glue some glitter to whatever part of the picture they want.

Try 25 Glitter Crafts over at Kids Activities Blog

Can be paired with Morris Mickelwhite and the Tangerine Dress

Find more “Perfect Picture Book Friday” reviews at Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog HERE.

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14 Responses to Sparkle Boy – Perfect Picture Book Friday

  1. This sounds like a great book. I’m looking forward to reading it. Unfortunately, those who use it for gender identity are guilty of the same stereotyping of which they accuse others. Speaking from personal experience, I hope the book opens people’s eyes instead of creating new sterotypes with even more pressure on our young people. Thanks you for sharing it. I especially think I will love Maria Mola’s art. So sweet!

  2. Joanna says:

    Joanna, a very pertinent comment, and you are so right. This is a book is simply about freedom of exploration and expression for all ages!

  3. I recently saw this very special book encouraging kids to play and be themselves. I think many kids will relate to this wonderful story and helps parents be more open. Lovely choice and charming art.

  4. This book was discussed at a recent SCBWI meeting I attended. I’m looking forward to reading it. It’s important to allow children to explore their world to discover who they are and what they like.

  5. I love the idea that the theme is simply self-expression, it whatever form that takes. We are all okay, just as we are in all of our uniqueness. I put it on hold at the library.

  6. Jilanne Hoffmann says:

    I do love this book! We have this one in our library. Everyone should have the right to feel comfortable in their own skin/clothing, whether it sparkles or not.

  7. Andrea Mack says:

    I’m always on the lookout for good books promoting self-expression!

  8. Wish I had saved Aaron’s favorite sparkly red shoes! If only my storytime kids were old enough to be trusted not to eat the sparkles, I’d try this one out on them!

  9. Joanna says:

    I was never into sparkly things as a kid, but I am now so into bright colors that I stand out on the subway!

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