Title: Sparkle Boy
Author: Lesléa Newman
Illustrator: Maria Mola
Publisher: Lee and Low, 2017
Themes: brothers and sisters, self expression, lgbtqia+, bullying, diversity
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.”
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.
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.