Written by: Charlotte Zolotow
Illustrated by: William Pène Du Bois
For Ages: 3-8
Topics Covered: Gender Stereotypes, Family, Acceptance.
Summary: William wants a doll more than anything! He wants to practice being a father, holding and feeding and cuddling a baby of his own. William’s brother and the boy next door tease him, calling him a “sissy” and his father buys William a basketball. William plays basketball, he still wants a doll though. His father buys him a train set, but he still didn’t stop wanting a doll. One day, William’s grandmother comes to visit. William shows her the basketball and train set, but on a walk with her he reveals that what he truly wants is a doll. She says that is “wonderful” but William is not so sure, because of all the things everyone else says. She takes William to the store and picks out the perfect doll, and William is in love with it! His grandmother explains to William’s father that he wants a doll to practice being a father, and so “he’ll know how to take care of his baby”.
This is a sweet story about family acceptance and recognizing that toys aren’t for specific genders. It was published in the 70’s, and is one of the first examples of literature combatting gender stereotyping. A quick read with relatable content for young children, it makes the case that young boys can want and play with dolls without going into any assumptions about sexuality.
- Do you think anyone can play with any toy they want?
- Why do you think some people think boys and girls should play with certain things?
- What are your favorite things to play with?
Continuing the Conversation:
- Make sure everyone feels comfortable playing with anything in the classroom! Are there assumptions you make about what a student likes to do just because they’re a boy or a girl?
- Make a list of your favorite things. Who else likes those things? See who in your class has some of the same favorite activities as you do that you might not expect!
About the Author & the Illustrator:
A distinguished and prolific author and editor of children’s books, the work of Charlotte Zolotow (June 26, 1915-November 19, 2013) offered even the youngest children an unsentimental but compassionate view of topics like anger, envy and death. Authentic, sensual, kind, and sometimes funny, she never condescended to the emotional lives of her young readers, nor did she diminish the problems, large and small, they faced.
The son of noted American painter and art critic Guy Pène du Bois, William Pène du Bois seemed destined by family influence to become an artist. His ancestry includes painters, architects, and designers in every generation since 1738. He studied art in France and began publishing books for children in the mid-1930s. He served in World War II as a correspondent for Yank and other magazines and became the first art director of The Paris Review in 1953. A highlight of his career was winning the Newbery Medal in 1948 for The Twenty-One Balloons. As an illustrator, he was awarded Caldecott Honors in 1952 for Bear Party and in 1957 for Lion. In addition to his own stories, he also illustrated books by such notable authors as Roald Dahl, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Edward Lear, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Jules Verne, and Mark Strand.