Thursday, May 23, 2019

Review - Love Is Love

Love Is Love
by Michael Genhart
illustrated by Ken Min
Date: 2017
Publisher: Little Pickle Stories
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 34
Format: e-book
Source: library

A boy confides in a friend that he doesn’t know what to say when he’s teased for having two dads, and when kids say that they’re not a real family. In their conversation, his friend helps him see how her family (with a mom and a dad) isn’t all that different from his: they both have parents who love them, and they both love their parents. And it’s love that makes a family. Love Is Love, Michael Genhart, Ph.D., shows that gay families are simply another kind of normal, and that all children value the love of family. This heartfelt dialogue provides a gentle way to discuss discrimination.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I don't like giving mediocre reviews to books like this, but I just wasn't that impressed with Love Is Love. The overall premise is great, and the writing and illustrations are fine. But there are a couple of things that I really don't like about this book, and that kind of affected my view of it.

First, it's confusing. It's a story told with a first-person voice, and it starts out showing a little white boy wearing a t-shirt with a rainbow heart on it. A couple of pages later, the boy is suddenly black! I thought maybe there was some sort of horrible editing hiccup, but then I realized that the t-shirt is appearing on kids from around the world. But the narrative continues as if it's from that first little boy, so it's confusing. (Okay, I get that it's trying to show that everyone can be a supporter and ally of the LGBTQ community. But I'm afraid that, with children's more literal thinking, they're going to wonder why the narrator's ethnicity and gender is changing throughout the story!)

Second, though the notes for adults at the end pay lip service to the fact that being gay is illegal and/or downright dangerous in some parts of the world, that isn't even addressed in the story. In fact, it talks about how some people pretend they aren't gay, and portray this as just a choice made out of low self-esteem or something. In some parts of the world, you come out at your own risk. Encouraging children to stand up for gay people is all fine and good... as long as it's not going to put them at risk. I think this issue needs to be addressed a little more; the fact that it isn't kind of smacks of privilege. A child can wear a rainbow t-shirt and stand up for their gay family and friends in much of the Western world without needing to fear for their safety. But this book doesn't really address the fact that doing so in many other parts of the world could land you in serious trouble (or even physical danger). I'm not saying kids shouldn't stand up and do what's right; I'm just saying I wish the issue of safety had been better addressed.

There are plenty of notes at the end for kids and parents (which I'm not usually a fan of in picture books; if you can't say what you needed to say in the main text, then maybe the book needs some work).

Overall, this isn't a terrible book, though I do think the mismatch between the narrative and the pictures could be confusing for some readers. I also think that parents need to emphasize safety if they give a book like this to their kids. It would be nice if nasty words were the only things that get hurled at the LGBTQ community and its supporters. Sadly, they're not.

Premise: 4/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 4/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 3 out of 5

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