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
Check out more picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book blog.
19 thoughts on “Introducing Teddy – Perfect Picture Book Friday”
Nice review! 😀
Such a sweet story!
Yes, it is. And the illustrations match the tone. It’s really a beautiful book.
“I don’t care if you’re a girl teddy or a boy teddy! What matters is that you are my friend.”—I love that. So simply stated and yet it carries such depth.
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.
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.
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!
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!
Yes! I love Worm Loves Worm and just gave it as a birthday present to one of my nieces. She and her family LOVE it. So maybe this one’s going to be a birthday present as well.
This looks so sweet; hope my library has it!
Our librarian just acquired this book, along with a more “teaching” oriented nonfiction book about gender identification for our school’s classrooms. The other book contains a wheel that allows kids to decide where they “fit in” on any given day. And that they may feel differently about where they are on the wheel as time passes. The nonfiction book is called “Who Are You?” by Brook Pessin-Whedbee. https://www.amazon.com/Who-Are-You-Gender-Identity/dp/1785927280/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1506100272&sr=8-1&keywords=gender+identity+picture+book
Great review. It is very thoughtfully and gently done.
Thank you, Maria. I think it’s pretty darn perfect.
Oh my gosh, how have I missed this. Such a sweet take on gender identity and anxiety!
It is! Now you can spread the word. Cheers!
Aw. This book is so ding dang sweet.
One of those “quiet” books that is often overlooked. Cheers, dahlink!