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, 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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