A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Introducing Teddy: A Gentle Story about Gender and Friendship by Jessica Walton and Dougal MacPherson was originally self-published in Australia when Walton wanted help explaining her transgender father's transition to her son and couldn't find any books on gender identity for the very young. The book attracted international media attention and gathered support and praise. Walton handles the difficult topic gently and skillfully, in ways that are manageable and appropriate for the age group. For instance, it's a teddy bear, not a person, who wants to change from Thomas to Tilly. Kids might need help distinguishing the tricky issues of gender identity, sexual orientation, and gender roles. Many kids experiment with gender roles -- will, like this teddy bear, have fun turning a bow tie into a hair bow -- and in this book the kid characters enjoy doing things that aren't gender-specific, thus expanding kids' ideas more generally of what roles are possible and available to them.
What's the story?
In INTRODUCING TEDDY: A GENTLE STORY ABOUT GENDER AND FRIENDSHIP, Thomas the teddy bear plays with his best friend Errol. They bike, plant vegetables, have lunch in a tree house, and enjoy tea parties. One day, Thomas tells Errol a secret, but worries, "If I tell you, you might not be my friend anymore," then reveals, "I've always known that I'm a girl teddy, not a boy teddy. I wish my name was Tilly, not Thomas." Errol hugs the bear and says that all that matters "is that you are my friend." After they call their friend Ava to play with them, the newly named Tilly switches her bow tie to a hair bow, and Errol and Tilly continue to do all the same things they always loved to do together.
Is it any good?
This sensitively written book on a difficult topic is done with just the right hand to introduce the idea of gender identity and transition to very young kids, for whom less may be more. In Introducing Teddy: A Gentle Story about Gender and Friendship, author Jessica Walton wisely assigns the issue to a teddy bear, not a human, therefore keeping it at a more comfortable remove. She also peoples the book with kid characters who aren't concerned at all with gender stereotypes -- Errol likes tea parties and Ava builds robots -- so the book gently models breaking out of constricting gender roles more generally.
The appealing art by Dougal MacPherson goes a long way toward helping kids relate. It pictures the teddy with endearingly ragged stitching, conveying the implicit message that we all have our own secret worries and fears. This book works well for kids thinking about gender identity, or who, like most preschoolers, like to play with both trucks and tutus themselves.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Thomas wanting to be Tilly in Introducing Teddy: A gentle story about gender and friendship. Do you know anyone who wants to be a different sex than the one they were born?
Do you think boys and girls can have fun doing a variety of things? Errol likes to have tea parties and Ava likes to build robots. What kinds of things do you like to do?
Do you have a teddy bear or stuffed animal who's your favorite? If your teddy could talk, what do you think it would tell you?
- Author: Jessica Walton
- Illustrator: Dougal MacPherson
- Genre: Picture Book
- Topics: Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Bloomsbury Children's Books
- Publication date: May 31, 2016
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 3 - 6
- Number of pages: 32
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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