Freckleface Strawberry, or, Finding Diversity in Unusual Places

Finding diversity in early readers, particularly when it comes to popular, commercially-successful series, can unfortunately be a real struggle for many teachers, librarians and caregivers. Books featuring trains, dinosaurs, aliens, superheroes and animals are a dime a dozen, but finding stories that reflect the diversity of our communities can be challenging.

I discovered a great list of diverse early readers over at the fantastic blog What We Do All Day, and one title that really stood out to me was Freckleface Strawberry : Backpacks by Julianne Moore (yes, the actress Julianne Moore!). On first glance, nothing about this story seems particularly diverse – two white, able-bodied, middle-class children engage in the typical elementary-school hijinks. Of course there’s a place for these kinds of stories, and I remember very clearly the teasing my cousins experienced as red-headed children! Still, I couldn’t immediately grasp why this title deserved a place on a diverse reading list.

The primary diverse element in Freckleface Strawberry is subtle and gentle, and it blends seamlessly into the rest of the story. One of the characters, the little boy who’s Freckleface Strawberry’s best friend, has two loving mothers. The two mums are briefly and simply mentioned, just as a mum and dad might be introduced in any other story. This warm, loving and accepting representation of a same-sex parents warms my heart.

Of course, as one might expect, not everyone approves of this “hidden agenda about homosexuality” as one reviewer put it,  complaining that the first grade is far too early to be introducing children to the reality of same-sex parenting.

Now, there are children in the preschools and elementary schools I visit who have two mums or two dads. It seems so heartbreaking to me that some people firmly believe that children in these warm, loving families should be denied the opportunity to see their families reflected in stories. If small children can have two mummies or two daddies, then small children can be introduced to these families in loving, positive ways.

So, kudos to Julianne Moore for introducing casual, everyday family diversity into her stories with sensitivity and positivity. I can only hope that children everywhere will one day be able to see themselves and their families positively represented in the books they love.

2017 LGBTQ YA Releases

2017 LGBTQ YA Releases

I’ll be honest – this month’s romance theme is a tough one for me. I don’t typically read a lot of YA or MG, and there isn’t usually that much romance in picture books. However – when I’m not singing songs with toddlers, I’m one of the co-chairs of the BC Library Association’s LGBTQ Interest Group. […]

Review: Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel

Review: Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel

“Look at how pretty you are!” Mum exclaims. “You should straighten your hair all the time!” Well, I guess that’s one thing I can straighten about myself. (p. 63) Leila Azadi has always managed to avoid crushing on any of her classmates. No one knows she likes girls, not her loving and traditional Iranian parents, […]

Snapshot:  Baba Yaga’s Assistant by Marika McCoola, Emily Carroll (Illustrations)

Snapshot: Baba Yaga’s Assistant by Marika McCoola, Emily Carroll (Illustrations)

Hardcover, 132 pages Published August 4th 2015 by Candlewick Press Source: Library The reason I picked up Baba Yaga’s Assistant was due to Emily Carroll and my increasing love of her art. I expected to like the story but didn’t think I would love it as much. The premise is pretty simple so I shall […]

Review: The Hidden Agenda of Sigrid Sugden by Jill MacLean

Review: The Hidden Agenda of Sigrid Sugden by Jill MacLean

  What am I more afraid of? Prinny drowning on the reef? Or Tate and Mel? (p. 16) Sigrid Sugden is a Shrike. She, Tate, and Mel blackmail their schoolmates, though no teacher has yet found proof of their bullying. This changes when Tate and Mel are willing to let one of their victims die. Sigrid […]

Team Avatar, Detectives at Your Service

Team Avatar, Detectives at Your Service

It’s no secret that I’m a huge admirer of Avatar: the Last Airbender, tv show and comics both, so pardon me while I fangirl a little, and bear with my semi-academic writerly argument. But Team Avatar? Totally a detective group, solving the mysteries going on in their own specific time and place with people they know, […]

Review: The Radiant Road by Katherine Catmull

Review: The Radiant Road by Katherine Catmull

The Radiant Road is about Clare. Clare was a strange girl, solitary and shy. She was a stranger to the place she lived, and a stranger to the place she was born. And sometimes the Strange came to visit Clare, and dreams walked through her waking life. When Clare’s mother died, Clare’s dad couldn’t handle […]

Janet Recommends: Wanting Mor by Rukhsana Khan

Janet Recommends: Wanting Mor by Rukhsana Khan

Sooooo I should have written this post last month but life interfered. The real problem, though, was finding words enough for Wanting Mor by Rukhsana Khan. “If you can’t be beautiful you should at least be good. People will appreciate that.” That’s what Jameela’s mother, Mor, always told her. But being good isn’t always easy, Jameela […]