Introducing Teddy: A Gentle Story About Gender and Friendship

Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
Introducing Teddy: A Gentle Story About Gender and Friendship Book Poster Image
Gentle teddy bear tale about gender identity.

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Kids say

age 3+
Based on 3 reviews

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Very basic introduction to the issue of gender identity, of identifying as a different sex than the one you were born.

Positive Messages

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 & Representations

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.

Violence & Scariness

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.

User Reviews

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Teen, 17 years old Written byAshFlash April 26, 2019


To all the parents who think this PICTURE BOOK for KIDS is bad just because it deals with gender, I think it is good for kids to have role models in literature.... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byyuerreilly June 5, 2020

Perfect Introduction

This is a perfect book to introduce gender identity.
I think it's good idea to teach children about this early.

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?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love friendship and LGBT stories

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