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