Free to be Incredible Me

Written by: Joelle-Elizabeth Retener

Illustrated by: Connor DeHaan

For ages: 4-8 years

Language: English 

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Self-Expression, Gender Non-Conforming Youth, Acceptance, Family, Love, Social-Emotional Learning & Development. 

Summary: This book is SO cute!  It’s a quick read, the rhyming makes the pages turn quickly.  Manny returns from his first day of school pretty bummed, because he’s been teased for doing things “that boy’s shouldn’t do”.  Manny’s dad sees Manny’s heartache and sets about making sure Manny knows that boys can do anything.  They do their hair, have a dance party wearing bright colors, and try out different hairstyles.  Manny realizes that he can be himself and doesn’t have prove anything to anyone.  He can feel feelings, have confidence, and unlearn the negative thing society tries to push on young children in terms of gender expectations.

This book is so important.  Bookshelves are missing stories about young boys of color, and especially characters that are gender non-conforming.  Everyone needs to be seen, accepted, and loved for who they are.  Having these books that show parents and caregivers unabashedly celebrating who their children naturally are are CRUCIAL, we cannot overstate this.  This book shows how far we’ve come in the children’s literature world even in the last few years.  We do believe that other books with reticent parents have a place and are important, because that is a very real reaction that a lot of children face.  But it is just, if not even more, important that these are the books we’re reading to classrooms.  Check this book out and give it to everyone!

Reflection Questions:

  • Have you ever been told you couldn’t do something just because of who you are?
  • How did that feel?
  • Did someone help you find solutions to this dilemma?
  • Who helped you feel better?
  • How can you help someone that was told they couldn’t do something when you hear it?

About the Author & the Illustrator:

jer2“Hi! I am Joelle-Elizabeth Retener (she/her), a first generation Haitian-American from the DC metro area. I’m a proud graduate of Spelman College and American University, where I studied Spanish and International Studies. In my past life, I was a US diplomat and traveled the world promoting and implementing US foreign policies. I’m now taking a shot at writing kidslit while homeschooling my littles. I am passionate about promoting diversity & inclusion, and fighting for gender equality.”  She works tirelessly to ensure that all gender expansive children’s voices are heard, and that they are free to enjoy the same rights, and opportunities as their peers.  We think she rocks!

ProfileConnor DeHaan is a multifaceted designer based in upstate New York. Design has become a lifestyle for myself and progression my fuel. While Connor is away from his home studio, you can find him either cooking up some delicious plates, hanging with the pooch, and when the earth freezes over, up on the hill making some turns.

For more information on his work, to get in touch regarding employment opportunities, or to just say hello, feel free to reach out.

 

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