Desert Queen

Levine Querido. Oct. 2023. 50p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781646142620.
PreS-Gr 3–Music flows through a child in the Thar Desert—and yet no one sees him dance. His binary “desert world” makes him choose boy or girl, nothing else. A school performance casts the child as Lord Krishna, and the beautiful costume offers a glimpse of freedom. As tragedy eventually strikes the boy and his family, he turns to drag. Dare he continue to be himself when not all accept him (or her)? Inspired by (and dedicated to) real-life drag performer Queen Harish, Gopal and Kohli’s lyrical collaboration is a visual feast with a powerful message. Within the narrative, the child uses both he and she pronouns, typically referred to with he/him out of drag and she/her in drag. The spreads boast vivid colors and culturally-specific motifs. Back matter includes an author’s note, artist’s note, and additional information about Queen Harish.
VERDICT With art as shiny and glittery as the goddess herself, this picture book is nothing short of brilliant. An essential purchase.

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