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. […]

Guest Post: A Review of Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Leah CL

Guest Post: A Review of Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Leah CL

 Leah CL’s mother used to say the world could end around her while she was reading and she wouldn’t even notice. She loves children’s lit, particularly middle grade fiction, and is sure she’ll get around to writing her own…one of these days. Leah has a degree in journalism and a degree in music, so logically […]

Review: Spirits Abroad by Zen Cho

Review: Spirits Abroad by Zen Cho

… Embarrassing relatives became less of a problem after Vivian left Malaysia. In the modern Western country where she lived, the public toilets were clean, the newspapers were allowed to be as rude to the government as they liked, and nobody believed in magic except people in whom nobody believed. — The First Witch of […]

Haruka and Michiru – My First Lesbians

Haruka and Michiru – My First Lesbians

Yash’s great post on same-sex relationships in school stories got me thinking about my own experiences with diverse literature, especially as a young person. I started to wonder: when did I first encounter a fictional same-sex couple? I’m one of the older members of The Book Wars team, and suffice it to say, children’s literature […]