My Princess Boy, published by Aladdin (Simon & Schuster) in Dec. 2010
Author: Cheryl Kilodavis
Illustrator: Suzanne DeSimone
My 24 year-old daughter suggested that I read My Princess Boy, as she had heard a lot about it, including some very divergent opinions of the rightness of letting a young boy dress in "girl clothes". While it is slightly scary taking on a controversial topic in a new review blog, my goal of emphasizing diversity and acceptance here at My Comfy Chair made this a must-read.
For those who have not heard of My Princess Boy, it is a non-fiction picture book about the author's four-year-old son who likes to dress in pretty dresses and pink and sparkles.
I received a review copy from Simon & Schuster, and dropped everything to see how this topic might be handled. I was nervous. What if I liked the way the story was handled, but didn't like the book itself? What if I objected to the tone, but thought the intent was good.
I needn't have worried. I read the book through, and liked it, but realized after I finished that I was still thinking too much about the reaction and not enough about the story. I started again, but this time soaking up the story and the flow and the illustrations. This time, I liked it even more. I read it to one of my cats, Pandora. My cats often have to sit in as listeners when I don't have a small child around.
This time, I fell in love with it. The message is one I have always believed, that there are plenty of people in the world who will judge your children and tell them what they can't do or be. As a parent, you have a chance to tell them that they can do or be anything, but especially themselves. Cherl Kilodavis freely acknowledges in interviews (which I watched after I finished the book) that she had her doubts and worries when her son started to dress in frilly dresses and dance around, but she overcame them. She realized that her son was who he was, and loved beautiful things. She stopped describing them as "girl things" and focuses on how they are "pretty things", and it makes all the difference.
To bolster this idea, Suzanne DeSimone took an unusual approach in leaving the faces without eyes or mouths or other features. While this may sound distancing, it makes the people us, without specific races or genders. I had a little trouble when I first opened the book, but I think it was a very creative way of making this a book about all of us and all our children. After a few pages, you don't see the approach, but simply the engaging characters.
I can't wait until it is my turn to teach Sunday school next, as I definitely want to share this with my pre-schoolers, many of whom dress up without much regard to "boy things" or "girl things". I think they will like the story, but I think their parents and older siblings need to hear it as well.
I heartily recommend this for children and families, for libraries and for classrooms.
Find 'My Princess Boy' on Amazon.com
Find 'My Princess Boy' on Amazon.co.uk