Title: Fred Gets Dressed
Author & Illustrator: Peter Brown
Publisher: Little Brown, 2021
Themes: nakedness, getting dressed, nonconformity, dressing up, unconditional love, playacting,
Fred is naked!
Fred likes to run around the house nekkid. That’s pretty much the most freeing feeling in the world to him (and to many of is when were little). With mom and dad totally aware of his lack of attire, he traipses from room to room until he ends up in his parent’s bedroom. There he views a ton of grown-up clothes. First he tries on his dad’s clothes but finds they swamp him. Then he tries Mom’s clothes. He discovers one of her shirts can be worn as a dress. A pretty dress though needs some extras, right? Like jewelry and makeup. When he’s discovered by his parents, readers will cheer that instead of getting a telling-off, his parents (and the dog) simply join in the fun.
Why I like this Book:
Can you believe that last month a Kansas library tried to get this book banned?! This was Peter Brown’s response:
“But given the political climate of America these days, I figured it was only a matter of time,” Brown said. “The woman trying to ban ‘Fred Gets Dressed’ has the right to keep her children from reading the book, but controlling what other people can read? That’s downright un-American,” Brown said. “I think everyone needs to lighten up, and let children be whoever they’re going to be, and let them read what they want to read. Everything is going to be fine.. Oh, and if a pair of naked buns doesn’t make this woman laugh, or at least smile, then she clearly has no sense of humor, and I have to seriously question her qualifications for judging children’s books.” (Kansas Reflector)
In interviews, Peter has said that the book is actually a tribute to his mom. “One afternoon, I got into her makeup drawer and began playing around with all the different cases and tubes and brushes, and when she found me I had makeup smeared across my face. My mom’s reaction was typical for her; with zero judgment whatsoever, she simply cleaned off my face and demonstrated how she put on her makeup. I followed along, and put makeup on myself, and we had a great time together. Looking back now, I realize that her parenting-style was ahead of its time…”
While some of the nay-sayers and many other readers have focused on this book being about a trans kid, to be honest I didn’t read it this way, but one of the great things about books is every reader will find their own interpretation. For me, the book focuses on two timeless kid activities: running around naked and dressing up (especially in grown-up clothes irrespective of gender). Kids love to explore and experiment.
I love the moment when Fred’s expression shows how he wonders if the lipstick and dress are going to get him into trouble. Every kid knows that feeling, and many will know that relief when the adults understand and accept, if not join in too. This is a simple romp about childhood self-expression and parental unconditional love, with maybe a sideways glance at how any gender norms here is just irrelevant.
Have a big ole dress-up session with nothing out of bounds!
Each week a group of bloggers reviews picture books we feel would make great educational reads. To help teachers, caregivers and parents, we have included resources and/or activities with each of our reviews. A complete list of the thousands of books we have reviewed can be found sorted alphabetically and by topics, here on Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.