“Sparkly Boy” by Lesléa Newman and illustrated by Maria Mola is a beautifully written and illustrated book about a boy who is lucky enough to be born into a family that loves and accepts him for himself, even when he wants to wear sparkly skirts and sparkly nail polish.
Casey is a young boy (maybe three or four?) who has an older sister, Jessie, who loves sparkly things. When she shows Casey her sparkly skirt, Casey wants one, too. He says, “Ooh, shimmery, shimmery. I want shimmery.”
Jessie isn’t happy. She tells Casey that he can’t have a shimmery skirt because boys don’t wear shimmery skirts. Their mom responds beautifully. “If Casey wants to wear a skirt, Casey can wear a skirt.” She gets Casey a hand-me-down sparkly skirt that was Jessie’s. He loves it. Jessie is not happy.
Next, Jessie comes back from a birthday party with glittery nails. Casey sees them and he, too, wants glittery nails. When Jessie says that he can’t have glittery nails because boys don’t wear glittery nail polish, their Dad says that while “Most boys don’t wear nail polish…Casey can if he wants to.”
Even when Abuelita visits the next day and gives Jessie one of her sparkly bracelets, Casey also gets one when he asks. Abuelita’s only comment is “I’ve never seen a boy wear a sparkly bracelet…until now.”
But at the end of the book, when others try to tell Casey he can’t dress in sparkles, Jessie sticks up for him.
What is this book about? It’s not a huge declaration about transgender kids. It’s not a huge declaration about anything. It’s just a lovely story about letting kids be what they want, wear what they want, and depart from societal expectations.
It’s also about sibling love and the importance of sticking together as a family. Jessie is an amazing example of a mature, accepting and loving older sister.
In the classroom setting, this would be a great opportunity to have a discussion about glitter and societal expectations. Ask the boys if they love playing with glitter glue. Have a discussion about clothing and pants and skirts. Ask the students why it’s okay for girls to wear pants but why some people think it’s not okay for boys to wear skirts. Show pictures of Scotland and the men who proudly wear skirts. Ask if there are other cultures where men wear skirts or long robes that may look like dresses.
This is a book that would be an asset in every primary classroom. I’d even use it in an intermediate classroom to spark a discussion about individuality and acceptance.
Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover picture book provided by the publisher, Lee & Low Books, for review purposes.