Sparkle Boy is the latest work of LGBTQ+ children’s book pioneer Lesléa Newman. Newman wrote the ground-breaking Heather Has Two Mommies back in 1989, and has continued to create stories which show kids that love is what makes a family in the years since then. Sparkle Boy continues the tradition of transforming restrictive cultural norms, this time addressing gender performance.
It’s a sweet tale of a little boy named Casey who likes what his sister likes; sparkly skirts, nail polish, and jewelry. Most of Casey’s family is fine with his love of glitter, until conflict arrives in the form of big-sister Jessie’s disapproval. But as is the case with many family dramas, the situation is resolved when an outside force makes her remember what taking care of family means.
Here’s a fun video of Newman talking about the book with a puppet TV host:
One of the reasons the Sparkle Boy story is effective is that it reflects sibling reality. Younger kids look up to the older ones and want to dress like them, talk like them, and be like them. But older siblings are often annoyed by the adulation. The last thing they want is an irritating mini-me trailing behind them. Because this is such a ubiquitous reality, the story works even if little Casey didn’t stretch current Western gender conformance rules.
The language, pacing, and poetry of the writing is geared toward readers of Casey’s age. But the message also works for older kids like Jessie, who are much more in touch with social expectations about what “boy things” and “girl things” are supposed to look like.
Sparkle Boy is the perfect book for families who are trying to ease in to gender-neutral parenting, or for teachers with students who have trouble accepting displays of gender non-conformance.
Brava to Lesléa Newman for continuing to write books which show us the world is a better place when people are free to be fully themselves.
Suzanne DeWitt Hall is the author of Rumplepimple, a hilarious illustrated story book featuring a misunderstood doggy hero and his two moms. His next adventure, Rumplepimple Goes to Jail, will be available mid-October!