Review of When Aidan Became a Brother

When Aidan Became a BrotherWhen Aidan Became a Brother
by Kyle Lukoff; illus. by Kaylani Juanita
Preschool, Primary    Lee & Low    32 pp.    g
5/19    978-1-62014-837-2    $18.95

This story about anticipating the arrival of a new baby is, at its heart, about the unconditional love all children deserve. The fact that big-brother-to-be Aidan is transgender makes it a singular older-sibling story. “When Aidan was born, everyone thought he was a girl.” In fact, Aidan “didn’t feel like any kind of girl. He was really another kind of boy.” Lukoff ’s straightforward approach to his character’s gender transition rings with authenticity, and the acknowledgment that “it took everyone some time to adjust” is honest and supportive. Brown-skinned (possibly biracial) Aidan knows how it feels to be misunderstood, so when he learns his mom is having a baby, he wants to get things right for his new sibling. He helps pick out clothes and paint colors; he looks for gender-neutral names; and he practices reading so he’ll be able to read aloud. Still, he worries that the baby won’t be happy. His mom reassures him, “When you were born…we made some mistakes, but you helped us fix them.” Lukoff puts his child-centered story and character ahead of message; the word transgender is used only once, and gender not at all. Celebrating the family’s close, affirming relationship, Juanita’s vibrant digitally rendered illustrations take their cues from the text, which models how to avoid the male/female binary. Aidan’s appearance isn’t stereotypically male; for example, his bright clothing and bold combinations of patterns and colors indicate he’s his own boy. The final spread shows family and friends celebrating the new arrival, with cupcakes, presents, and helium balloons spelling out, simply, “IT’S A BABY.” A straightforward and heartfelt author’s note provides more context.

From the July/August 2019 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Kitty Flynn
Kitty Flynn is consulting editor for The Horn Book, Inc.

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