Introducing Teddy – Perfect Picture Book Friday

Let me introduce you to someone who’s soft, brown and fuzzy. You know, a teddy. As in teddy bear.

There’s also a boy. His name is Errol.


“Errol and Thomas the teddy play together every day. They ride their bike in the backyard. They plant vegetables in the garden. They have sandwiches for lunch in the tree house.”

Errol and Thomas the teddy have a sweet life.

“And they have tea parties inside when it’s raining.”

Notice there’s a little gender bending going on here. Errol holds tea parties, and he gardens. But he also rides his bike and eats in a tree house.  However, this isn’t really about Errol.

In the next spread we find out that even though Errol is itching to go play….

Oh, no! Errol does his best to cheer his friend up, but no matter what he does, it doesn’t work.

“What’s wrong, Thomas? Talk to me!” says Errol. 

“If I tell you,” said Thomas, “you might not want to be my friend anymore.”

Thus, begins this tender, warm-hearted story about Thomas the teddy who knows in his heart that he’s really a girl teddy. He wants to be “Tilly” not “Thomas.”

And what I love about this story? Errol doesn’t care.

“Is that why you’ve been so sad?” Errol asked. “I don’t care if you’re a girl teddy or a boy teddy! What matters is that you are my friend.”

Now that Thomas has spilled the beans, and Errol has reaffirmed their friendship, they are ready to party with friends. Errol calls in his buddy Ava (who’s just putting the finishing touches on her robot) and asks her to play at the park. Let’s hear it for pushing back those stereotypes!

As the story continues, we see Thomas (now Tilly) make her bow tie into a bow for the top of her head. Everyone is cool with it. And everyone continues to do the same things they enjoyed doing before. The only thing that’s changed is that Tilly isn’t hiding her feelings about her identity.

It’s tender. It’s touching. It’s time!

Bravo to Jessica Walton for writing a story about gender identification in such a sensitive and non-didactic way. And kudos to the illustrator, Dougal MacPherson, for his warm and expressive ink and colored pencil drawings that set the tone for this lovely story.

Title: Introducing Teddy: A gentle story about gender and friendship

Author: Jessica Walton

Illustrator: Dougal MacPherson

Publisher: Bloomsbury, 2016

Age: Preschool-8

Check out more picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book blog.

19 thoughts on “Introducing Teddy – Perfect Picture Book Friday

    • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

      I agree! I’m sure it took the author a long time to figure out how to tell this story in a way that’s age appropriate, straightforward, and sensitive. Picture books are deceptive in that they don’t reveal the number of drafts it takes to get the story right. The author worked hard on this one, and it shows.

  1. Patricia Tilton says:

    What a beautiful way to introduce gender identity issues to children, who really are accepting. There was an element of surprise for me, because when Teddy was laying on the blanket, I thought he might be sick and that this might be a grief book — boy was I surprised. Loved the build-up in the story.

    • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

      Yes, so well done. I, too, was wondering what was going to happen at that page turn. And afterward, I kept being surprised by how gender roles were being blurred for all the characters. Really wonderful! Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Cathy Ballou Mealey says:

    Love this line: It’s tender. It’s touching. It’s time!

    Great one to pair with Mike Curato’s WORM LOVES WORM to discuss how the external appearance doesn’t matter!

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