Sarah Savage and Fox Fisher, Are You a Boy or Are You a Girl?

Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2017, ISBN 978-1-78592-267-1

'My name is Tiny and this is my family', starts the text in this picture book, above a child-like drawing. The family has moved to a new house, where Tiny and sister Fiona love playing dressing up and pretend games. 'Tiny', asks Fiona, 'are you a boy or are you a girl today?', a question answered neither in words nor in the pictures, which show Tiny in a variety of roles. At Tiny's new school a bully yells: 'Tiny, what a silly name. I can't tell if it's a girl or a boy.' The teacher intervenes: 'Buster, that's rude. Why does it matter if they are a boy or a girl?' When firefighters come to talk about fire safety Tiny shows Mia, who believes girls can't be firefighters, that the driver of the fire engine is a woman. When they play football together, Buster objects that football is only for boys. Mia responds that what's important is that everyone has fun. Later Buster is back in full bullying mode. 'Tiny is not a he. Tiny is not a she. Tiny is an it!' Once more the teacher takes issue, asking him again why it matters if Tiny is a boy or a girl. After Buster has been made to apologise, he and Tiny discover they have lots of things in common. Later, new neighbour Alfie asks, with a look of curiosity, 'Alfie, are you a boy or are you a girl?' The answer from a smiling Tiny: 'I am me.'

Books on gender identity for young children are still very few and far between. Children who do not identify as boys or girls will find Are You a Boy or Are You a Girl? immensely reassuring. It will be extremely valuable too in schools, in families, and in other settings - for helping young children understand gender diversity and question gender stereotypes. At the end there are a number of useful discussion starters, for example 'Does it matter if Tiny is a boy or a girl?' and 'What would you ask Tiny if you met them?', followed by information about organisations that provide support on gender identity issues. A sensitive and important book, written by campaigners for transgender rights.