Sparkle Boy

Written by: Lesléa Newman

Illustrated by: Maria Mola

For Ages: 4-8 years

Language: English, slight Spanish mention.

Topics Covered: Self-Expression, Gender Expression, Family Acceptance, Inclusiveness.

Summary: This book opens with two siblings, sister Jessie and younger brother Casey, in the living room of their home.  Jessie is dancing in a sparkly skirt, and Casey reaches out, wanting to wear it as well.  Jessie tells Casey he can’t wear a skirt because he’s a boy, but their mother says if Casey wants to he can.  His mother gives him a skirt that is too small for Jessie, and he is delighted to spin around.  Jessie is not so thrilled about this.  This scenarios happens again regarding nail polish, and sparkly bangles gifted to Jessie from their Abuelita.  Jessie is not happy, Casey is the happiest.  When the family plans a trip to the library a few days later, Casey wears all of his new sparkly things.  Jessie says Casey looks silly, but their mother says “Casey looks like Casey” and the family departs.  At the library, a young girl calls Casey a sister to Jessie, and Casey corrects her, saying he is a brother.  The girl says Casey is a girl, and can’t be a brother.  An older boy overhears the conversation and starts mocking Casey wearing a skirt, saying he looks weird.  Jessie comes to his defense, and they leave.  The final two pages of the book show Casey and Jessie sitting together, wearing all of their sparkles: skirts, nail polish, and bangles.  This is a realistic story, with some family members feeling reluctant to embrace someone that defies gender stereotypes.

Reflection Questions:

  • Why do you think Jessie feels like Casey shouldn’t wear what he wants to?
  • How do you think Casey feels when his mom lets him wear the different shimmery things that his sister gets to wear?
  • What do you think makes Jessie change her mind about what Casey wears when they’re at the library together?
  • Do you know anyone that wears things that not a lot of other people wear?  How do you think it makes them feel to have or wear them?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Think about what makes you the happiest when you wear it.  What does it look like, what colors are in it?  Draw yourself.
  • Think about what you could do if you saw somebody making fun of what someone was wearing the way the older boys were making fun of Casey.  How might someone feel when another person stands up for them?

About the Author & the Illustrator:

leslea newmanLesléa (pronounced “Lez-LEE-uh”) Newman is the author of 70 books for readers of all ages, including A Letter to Harvey Milk; October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard; I Carry My Mother; The Boy Who Cried Fabulous; Ketzel, the Cat Who Composed; and Heather Has Two Mommies. She has received many literary awards, including creative writing fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Massachusetts Artists Foundation, two American Library Association Stonewall Honors, the Massachusetts Book Award, the Association of Jewish Libraries Sydney Taylor Award, the Highlights for Children Fiction Writing Award, a Money for Women/Barbara Deming Memorial Fiction Writing grant, the James Baldwin Award for Cultural Achievement, the Cat Writer’s Association Muse Medallion, and the Dog Writers Association of America’s Maxwell Medallion. Nine of her books have been Lambda Literary Award Finalists. Ms. Newman wrote Heather Has Two Mommies, the first children’s book to portray lesbian families in a positive way, and has followed up this pioneering work with several more children’s books on lesbian and gay families: Felicia’s Favorite Story, Too Far Away to Touch, Saturday Is Pattyday, Mommy, Mama, and Me, and Daddy, Papa, and Me.

maria mola

Maria Mola  is a freelance illustrator and artist. She is from Barcelona, Spain, but she currently lives in Chicago with her husband and their two little children. She is passionate about bringing her art to the children’s picture book industry. Her clients include Lerner Publishing, Editions Anna Chanel, Pearson, and McGraw-Hill among others. Maria has worked in the educational field and for the trade market and she regularly collaborates with magazines too. Maria creates her work both digitally and in traditional media, often combining both. She specially enjoys bringing new characters to life. When not creating children’s book dummies, she enjoys playing with her children, reading and photography. Most of the times doing everything at once. With a cup of coffee, of course.

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