A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Very basic introduction to the issue of gender identity, of identifying as a different sex than the one you were born.
If you have a secret, you might feel better if you tell a friend. It's more important to be true to yourself and your own feelings than to be worried about how others will react. Friends will love and support you, and you can love and accept friends for who they are. Boys and girls can have a wide variety of interests, not just gender-stereotyped ones.
Positive Role Models
Tilly has the courage to express her innermost feelings even when she fears she might lose her best friend. Errol loves his teddy bear whether it's a girl teddy or a boy teddy. Their friend Ava also accepts the teddy. Errol and Teddy choose their activities based on what they enjoy, not on gender, as does Ava, who builds robots.
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.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.