When Aidan Became a Brother, illustrated by Kaylani Juanita, written by Kyle Lukoff, published by Lee & Low Books, ISBN: 978-1620148372.
What a sweet, joyous, loving book this is, filled with empathy and heart. This own voices story, written with sensitivity and emotional immediacy by Kyle Lukoff, tells of a boy named Aidan who, when he was born, everyone thought was a girl. His parents paint his bedroom walls pink, and dress him in clothes usually worn by girls. “He felt like his room belonged to someone else,” the third person narrator observes, and Aidan starts acting out, ripping or staining his clothes “accidentally on-purpose.” In a beautiful touch, his parents respond to his coming out as transgender in the most accepting way possible, and meet up with other families with transgender kids. A lot of praise must be given to Kaylani Juanita’s warm, inviting, fluid illustrations here. She is great at capturing the love between Aidan and his parents, and excellent at body language (look at the moment where Aidan jumps in the mud to wreck his dress, followed by the image of Aidan happily looking at himself in a mirror after cutting off some of his long hair). When Aidan’s family visits with other families on an outing, Juanita creates a verdant picnic scenario that pleases the eye.
Lukoff’s book reaches an even higher level of dramatic interest when Aidan finds out he will become a big brother. Aidan and his parents make sure that the new sibling will enter an environment that doesn’t reinforce gender. So when people ask “are you excited for your new brother or sister?” Aidan replies, “I’m excited to be a big brother.” Aidan starts wondering if he will make mistakes in his new role, and his mother reassures him by telling him how much he taught her and his father about loving someone exactly who they are. The touching final moments have Aidan feeling hopeful because he knows “how to love someone and that was the most important part of being a big brother.” I adore the lovely final tableau shows a party for the newborn baby (gender not identified) with balloons spelling out “IT’S A BABY” while people celebrate.
This terrific book ranks as one of the very best of 2019.