Tag: Celebration

“The Bare Naked Book” Is an All-Gender-Inclusive Celebration of Bodies

"The Bare Naked Book" Is an All-Gender-Inclusive Celebration of Bodies

A celebratory and body-positive book for young children discusses all the different parts of a human body, from hair and nose to nipples and genitals—and is marvelously inclusive of all genders and a wide range of skin tones, physical differences, and body types.

The Bare Naked Book - Kathy Stinson

The Bare Naked Book, by Kathy Stinson and illustrated by Melissa Cho (Annick Press) is an updated edition of Stinson’s 1986 book of the same name. “Every body is different” it asserts, before proceeding to offer colorful spreads about different body parts, including hair, eyes, noses, arms, legs, and more. Each part is described briefly and readers are asked, “Where is your [hair, eyes, nose, etc.]?” The images show people of all ages laughing, playing, and posing in a variety of ways.

The Bare Naked Book - Kathy Stinson

Body types range from thin to heavy. People with disabilities are included through specific language about “Eyes that see and eyes that are blind,” “Ears that hear and ears that are deaf,” and more, and there are also multiple images of people in wheelchairs, with cochlear implants, and with one arm or leg. Two pages take us inside the body, “Where happy and sad live under every part,” to show simplified views of the digestive, respiratory, nervous, and skeletal systems.

We see many different skin tones, as well as people with vitiligo (loss of pigmentation), birth marks, stretch marks, skin spots, scars, armpit and chest hair, tattoos, body piercings, braces, missing teeth, and glasses. There are characters with Muslim hijabs and burkas as well as Sikh head coverings (turbans and patka). I would have loved to see some with Jewish yarmulkes, too, but that’s my only complaint.

We read of “Chest and breasts with hair, with milk, with nipples like buttons,” but Stinson admirably avoids specifying genders here. An image of various adults showing their naked breasts and chests includes one person with facial hair who has scars below the nipples of a flat chest, presumably a transgender man who has had top surgery.

The Bare Naked Book - Kathy Stinson

The pages on genitals show children taking off their clothes or on the toilet. While the genitals are clearly seen, they are shown in scenes that look like snapshots of everyday life, and feel appropriate for the age and topic. One child with a penis has a pink shirt; another with short hair has a vulva, but again, they are not gendered. Stinson stresses in the text, “Whatever you call whatever you have, your genitals belong to you.” She writes in the afterward about her deliberate approach here, saying that “Rather than specifying ‘penis’ and ‘vagina,’ as we did originally, and assigning them rigidly to males and females, this time we have used simply ‘genitals,’ leaving adult readers free to talk with children about variations in gender identity and genitalia, and the words they might prefer to use to refer to them.” This shared understanding of terms lets “each child choose how they self-identify” and can also help “in recognizing and intervening in cases of sexual abuse.”

The Bare Naked Book - Kathy Stinson

Aside from the image of the transgender man and other possibly trans or nonbinary characters, queer representation includes one image of two women (or possibly a woman and a nonbinary person) holding hands, likely a couple, an image of two older men with their arms around each other, also likely a couple (see first interior image above), and one character with pink hair and bold eye makeup who could be a drag queen (image above).

The Bare Naked Book - Kathy Stinson

The range of bodies and identities is really quite remarkable (although such a thing shouldn’t be so surprising). There seem to be at least two (sometimes more) people with any given religious head covering, disability, or other notable body feature (braces, vitiligo, body piercings, etc.) When so many other books that claim to be diverse have at most one person with any given diversity marker (e.g., the one token kid in the wheelchair or with a hijab), seeing these multiple depictions feels wonderful and affirming. No matter what your body is like or what you wear on it, you’re not alone.

This is a joyous and empowering book that should be welcomed by many seeking such volumes to teach their kids about bodies and their parts, but also about human diversity broadly speaking. It’s a must-have for any young child’s bookshelf. (Make sure you get the edition with the cover shown here, currently available only in hardback; earlier editions are not as inclusive.)

Picture Book Is a Glad Celebration of Gender Creativity

Picture Book Is a Glad Celebration of Gender Creativity

I’m going to lean in to the theme of picture books about gender creative children this week, with a look at a sweet recent picture book about a gender creative boy bear and his emotions.

Glad Glad Bear - Kimberly Gee

Glad Glad Bear, by Kimberly Gee (Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster), is the second of her Bear’s Feelings series that gently conveys social-emotional lessons through the adventures of the young, anthropomorphic Bear. (The first is Mad Mad Bear; the third, Sad Sad Bear, is scheduled for early 2021.) I’m often skeptical of anthropomorphic animals, since it seems like some publishers have at times seen them as more palatable than real humans in books about LGBTQ and gender creative characters—but this one is part of a series that began before touching on such identities. Its anthropomorphism therefore doesn’t seem like avoidance; it’s simply cute, and I’m fine with that. Also, the anthropomorphism is very light—these are basically human bodies with cute bear faces, not talking chickens, so they seem very relatable.

In Glad Glad Bear, Bear (who uses male pronouns) is happy about his first day at dance class. He has new leggings, slippers, and a tutu, which he joyously dons before accompanying his mother to dance class.

Upon seeing the other children and their parents, however, Bear feels “a little shy” and afraid—and “a little different.” We’re not told why, though the image shows us four presumed girl bears in tutus and one other presumed boy bear in leggings, but none in both tutus and leggings like Bear.

When the music starts, however, “Bear begins to feel light. And bubbly. And twirly.” Soon he is dancing. Afterwards, the teacher thanks him for coming, “And Bear is very glad he did.” We see him leaving the dance studio hand in hand with one of the girl bears.

It’s a sweet story—simple but perfect for the youngest age range. The illustrations are adorable, and clearly show Bear’s range of emotions. I also love that in contrast to many other books on gender creative boys, this one avoids having anyone make negative comments about Bear’s gender expression. Bear “feels a little different,” but it’s open to interpretation as to why—and even if readers decide it’s because of his gender expression, they’ll see that his hesitancy is soon dispelled. If only the real world was like that. Perhaps books like this can help make it happen—and then we’d all be glad.

H/t to Alli Harper of OurShelves for alerting me to this book.

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