Three Picture Books About Identity and Self-Love

These three titles for fairly young children can be used in the context of LBGTQIA+ issues, or for everyone trying to find out who they are.

If we’ve learned nothing else from 2020, it’s that kindness really counts, new ­voices need to be heard, and issues of identity must be approached with ­compassion. These three titles for fairly young children can be used in the context of LBGTQIA+ issues, or for everyone trying to find out who they are. It matters!

Abe, Momoko. Avocado Asks. illus. by ­Momoko Abe. 32p. Doubleday. Jan. 2021. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780593177938.
PreS-K–Avocado is enjoying life in the supermarket, until one day they wonder: Are they a fruit or a vegetable? After being rejected by the fruits and veggies, the avocado goes to find what they are, and learns a bit about self-confidence along the way. In this story, Abe offers a delightful tale of finding one’s place using objects and foods children are familiar with. The vocabulary is perfect for younger kids who can use the illustrations to help them read, and the text stands apart from the drawings. Text and design are so intertwined that the story feels like a young reader’s graphic novel on some pages, providing visual context clues with the character’s expressions and surroundings. The designs themselves are also pretty, with the main characters always being shown in contrast to the grocery section on display. Overall, Abe has created a nice trip to the grocery store about avocados, tomatoes, and confidence in oneself. VERDICT A delightful tale to help readers figure out where they belong, and, if a wise tomato is any indication, why that question may not even ­matter.
–Margaret Kennelly, Media Specialist, Indian Head Elem. Sch., MD

Boulay, Stéphanie. Riley Can’t Stop ­Crying. tr. from French by Charles Simard. illus. by Agathe Bray-Bourret. 80p. Orca. Mar. 2021. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781459826380.
K-Gr 2–In a compassionate look at dysmorphia, this insightfully emotional book guides children to unpack the turmoil of being unhappy with one’s self and how family support can encourage self-acceptance and self-love. A young girl, Regina, and her single father face the daily dilemma of calming her brother, four-year-old Riley, who cries incessantly but cannot explain why. Readers follow Regina’s candid, beautifully described thought process as she takes action to investigate and resolve what is upsetting her brother and subsequently facing the unspoken unhappiness in her small family. After many tries, the most revealing connection is made when Regina and her father ask, without judgment, what Riley’s choices of toys, clothing, colors, and hair would best suit his own tastes. Self-reflection, self-love, and empathy are shining elements in this story as Regina connects with Riley after thinking about her own past experiences and her father’s advice to take care of herself and love what makes her unique. The bright watercolor and gouache illustrations reflect the transparency of the book’s open message, as simple, exaggerated curving lines of the figures fluidly express how the characters’ stillness, movement, happiness, or depression affect their overall composure and presence. ­VERDICT A poignant, purposeful depiction of a ­family learning to recognize, confront, and heal internal struggles with self-love and self-worth. Children in need of encouragement will find comforting ­revelations about the value of individuality.–Rachel ­Mulligan, Pennsylvania State Univ.

McCurry, Kristen. Patrick’s Polka Dot Tights. illus. by Mackenzie Haley. 32p. ­Capstone. Jan. 2021. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781684460694.
PreS-Gr 2–Patrick, who is white, loves his polka dot tights. With his imagination the possibilities for their use go from the mundane (keeping his toes warm) to the highly creative (his strut down the catwalk/dining room table). Unfortunately, Patrick’s tights are actually his sister Penelope’s and when they go to the piano recital followed by a disastrous trip to the ice cream parlor, Patrick ends up in a desolate state. All works out well for the young boy who finds a plethora of new opportunities for imaginative play. There is prancing, dancing, strutting, and confidence in every colorful page that accompanies the engaging text. VERDICT A solidly positive purchase. While not focusing on gender or identity issues specifically, this affirming story embraces many forms of self-expression and play.–John Scott, Friends Sch. of Baltimore

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing