Thursday, April 26, 2018

Teddy's Favorite Toy

     I love books that upset stereotypes. In a world with more gender fluidity, picture books ought to offer some new windows, and fortunately publishers are beginning to agree.
 Teddy's Favorite Toy is a story about a boy and his favorite doll named "Bren-Da, Queen of Pacifica" who has great manners and " the sickest fighting skills".Teddy dresses her in a variety of amazing and creative costumes, using whatever he has at hand, including socks, his mom's shoe, an astronaut's helmet and a toy dinosaur. But one day, after some energetic play, Bren-Da loses a leg. Teddy does his best to repair her, but it doesn't work. He goes off to school, and his mom finds the broken, wrapped up doll and tosses her in the trash.
   But the story doesn't end here, or with a crying Teddy. moaning about his lost toy. I won't give away the ending, but I will say his mom displays some "impressive moves".
   Author Christian Trimmer was inspired to write this book because he had a Lynda Carter Wonder Woman doll as a boy. Illustrator Madeline Valentine brings the colors,energy and style that make the book playful and satisfying. I love the brevity of the text, the simple narrative that just makes it feel so comforting to see a boy and his mom who loves him as he is, with his yellow print shirt and his love of  many toys,including a doll. There's no drama, just fun.
   If you enjoy other picture books that challenge stereotypes, check out Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress, about a boy who faces challenges from his peers when he wears a dress, and one of my favorites, Sparkle Boy by the author of Heather Has Two Mommies, Leslea Newman. In Sparkle Boy, the adults give the main character unconditional love, while his older sister is appalled.  I Am Jazz features a transgender child, a child born a boy who knows from a very young age that he is truly a girl.  Jazz Jennings, the author of the book is an advocate for transgender children and teens. The subject is handled with respect; Booklist said it presented " a reassuring message for other different children." Let's hope more books offer this kind of empathy for children who make choices other than those traditional gender roles suggest.

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