I’ve always said that teaching children about love is the easiest thing in the entire world. So maybe the new picture book, Love Is Love, is more for some of the adults in our lives?
Dr. Michael Genhart’s sweet and moving story, illustrated beautifully by Ken Min, is told from the point of view of a young boy who starts off with an idea so many of us as parents can relate to:
I’ve got a problem.
Today some kids were laughing at my shirt.
He then goes onto describe that the problem is a rainbow heart shirt he loves, and he’s being teased because he has two dads. And here’s where my heart broken in a zillion pieces — until the protagonist’s wisdom put it back together.
He speaks in plain terms about how he doesn’t like it when kids say that being gay is gross, or when people say “that’s so gay” to describe something negatively. He doesn’t like when people tell him he shouldn’t wear a shirt he loves to keep from being teased because that’s unfair. And he especially doesn’t like when people say “you’re not a real family.”
He says it’s mean. He says it hurts.
And really, is there any more we need to tell our kids about kindness and empathy? Can’t every kid, sadly, relate to being on the receiving side of bullying of some kind?
Related: 6 fantastic children’s books celebrating LGBT families, because #LoveisLove
There’s more to Love is Love though — like a description about how the boy’s parents are really like any other parent, complete with their ski slope honeymoon “photos.” He even points out how there are so many gay people in our lives and communities, from a teacher to a police officer, to famous artists and athletes we all know and admire.
While the author never comes out and says it, it’s a great reminder that when we disparage an entire group of people, we may be surprised to find out those very people are some of those we like best in our lives.
They might even be in our own families.
As a bonus, there’s a great discussion guide in the back of the book, plus a note from the author to kids, and one just for parents. It’s so clear that the book is informed by author’s impressive 25-year background as a clinical psychologist specializing in kids with same-sex parents, because he knows exactly how to speak to kids in the most simple, clear terms, never talking down to them.
I think the author’s choice to use the word “gay” over and over in the prose is brilliant. As with any word that can be misused and weaponized, the repetition and plain speak about gay families and gay people and gay couples just completely takes any edge right out of the word.
And what’s really cool, as you might be able to see from the illustrations here, is that the protagonist actually changes throughout the book. There are all kinds of kids wearing that rainbow heart shirt — both boys and girls of all different races — so that really, the story is not coming from one child, but from an entire world of children craving kindness, understanding and acceptance.
Related: A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo: Because love is love. Even for bunnies.
I really hope this book ends up on a lot of bookshelves — not just for kids who have two moms or two dads (though this would be an awesome Father’s Day gift for a two-dad family!) but especially for kids who don’t. My own tween daughters, who are way past picture book age were utterly captivated by the story.
They told me, “let’s keep this book mom — don’t give this one away.” And that’s saying something.
Find Love Is Love by Michael Genhart on our affiliate Amazon or at your local bookseller. It’s published by Little Pickle Press, one of our favorite small publishers creating wonderful children’s books that teach without ever talking down.
PS You can find a Love is Love organic cotton child’s tee in sizes 2T-6T featuring Ken Min’s gorgeous cover art, from Brooklyn mom-run shop Sat Nam Babe. Just in time for Pride Month in June! SPECIAL OFFER: Sat Nam Babe was kind enough to offer our readers free US shipping through June 30 with code LOVEISLOVE