Ruby Reads (17): Mardi Gras

I haven’t blogged about Ruby-related reading for a while. Many wonderful books have been read, but I wouldn’t dream of trying to catch you up on them all. The Sydney Mardi Gras is coming up, so here are a couple of LGBTQ+-related titles.

Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are (1963)

I’ve mentioned this a couple of times on this blog (as in this recently retrieved post). I first met it in the early 1970s when I gave it to my niece, and have loved it ever since. I even quite like the movie. The Emerging Artist, aka Nanna, read it to Ruby recently. I don’t think Ruby got it: What is this thing called mischief that Max makes? Come to think of it, maybe we should give it another go, because although R doesn’t wear a wolf suit, she often says, ‘I’m a doggo!’ and gets a mischievous/rascally look in her eye. But I don’t think she has any idea what’s going on when Max’s mother sends him to bed without eating anything: punishment isn’t yet part of her moral universe.

In case you don’t know, after Max makes mischief and is sent to bed supperless, a forest grows in his room, and an ocean tumbles by. Max sails to where the wild things are and though they threaten to eat him he becomes their king, tames them, has a rumpus with them, and sails home to his room where his supper is waiting for him, ”And it was still warm.’

I don’t know what else to say about Where the Wild Things Are beyond that it’s a work of poetic genius, and if you haven’t seen the images, or other images referring to them, you haven’t been paying attention.

And why blog about it in connection with Mardi Gras? I don’t think there’s anything particularly queer about the book itself, but Maurice Sendak came out as gay towards the end of his life.

The Family Book (Todd Parr 2003)

The next three books were read to us at rainbow-themed events in a nearby library.

The Family Book is a straightforward celebration of diversity in families: heterosexual parents, same-sex parents, single parents, mixed race, many children, single children, adoption, and so on. It culminates in the statement: ‘There are lots of different ways to be a family. Your family is special no matter what kind it is.’

Like Sophie Beer’s Love Makes a Family (my blog post here), it’s fine, would irritate some culture warriors on the right and its illuatrations are lively enough to hold a young audience’s interest

Lesléa Newman (words) and Laura Cornell (pictures), Heather Has Two Mummies (2001)

First published in the USA in 1989 with a different illustrator and mommies rather than mummies, this is regarded as a groundbreaking book about a non-heteronormative family. According to Wikipedia (here) it is one of the most often banned books in the USA.

It’s a baldly didactic book. Heather goes to school, or perhaps it’s daycare, and discovers that all the other children have a mother and a father. When the teacher realises Heather doesn’t have a father, she sets up a number of activities to teach the children – and the readers – that having two parents of the same gender is fine, that what matters in a family is that people love one another ‘very much’. Someone, in recommending this book for early-childhood educators, says that you can do the activities that come with the book without actually reading the book.

The illustrations bring a lightness of touch to a text that is resolutely didactic though not, to be fair, completely humourless.

Mel Elliott, The Girl with Two Dads (Egmont 2019)

Matilda is new at the school. Pearl is excited to have a new friend, and even more excited when she discovers that Matilda has two fathers. In her family, the mother is the disciplinarian, so a family with two fathers must be a lot of fun. It turns out that Matilda’s parents are just as boring and full of rules as Pearl’s own.

Unlike the story of Heather and her mummies from 30 years ago, this one allows room for the readers to have a range of responses: they may identify with Pearl in thinking it’s odd to have two fathers, they may think that Pearl is a bit silly to think that, or they may see the whole same-sex parents thing as peripheral to the main story of friendship. I don’t know how this went down with the two- and three-year-old audience, but I liked the passionate friendship between the two girls, and the humour of Pearl’s disappointment worked for me.

Joe Brumm (creator), Bluey: Fruit Bat (Penguin Australia, 2019)

This book has got nothing to do with Mardi Gras. I just love Bluey and wanted to mention her. The book is a glow-in-the-dark version of an episode of the Bluey TV animation series, which you can watch online here.

Bluey is a blue cattledog who lives with her father (Dad), her mother (Mum) and her little sister Bingo in a suburban home, probably in Brisbane. The adults know how to play with the children. The children, er, pups are clever, affectionate, cooperative (mostly), energetic. Since seeing a little of this show, Ruby has taken to spinning around on the spot, which Bluey can do without getting dizzy. She’s also requested drawings of Bluey (which are much harder than Peppa Pig) and occasionally announces that she herself is Bluey, or Bingo.

This and Bluey: The Beach may be the only spin-off books from a children’s television cartoon show that I’ve enjoyed.

(An apology: I don’t have the book with me, and can’t find name of the book’s – as opposed to the cartoon’s – author.)

11 responses to “Ruby Reads (17): Mardi Gras

  1. Anne Bell Knight

    Ahh..I always think of John Brown,Rose and the Midnight Cat sort of in tandem with Where the Wild Things Are…Mine ‘got it’ more quickly with the former..maybe more within known sightings..Love them both..The former is Jenny Wagner -she of the ‘onion books’ quote.We have had rain..Yay..still
    need more..but wonderful.


  2. Love the wild things and I just never really got that movie either.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I recently had occasion to buy a birthday present book for a boy with two mummies, and was very disappointed by what’s available. (In that shop anyway).
    I’m not interested in didactic books featuring gay couples, I want a proper story beautifully written and illustrated that just happens to include different kinds of families. A book that’s not *about* gay couples or about how we should all accept them, just a book about a kid in a family but the family is a rainbow family. You wouldn’t think it would be so hard to find!


  4. I can’t remember its name, but I have an idea that there’s a book by Bob Graham about families that is the kind of thing I mean, but I’d have to fossick through all his many books to find it to be sure. I’ll try to remember to do this next time I’m in the local library.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi there J – I wrote something pithy and then had to sign in and get a new password and it all disappeared. It was about the Sendak book and being pleased that Ruby was not familiar with the concept of punishment yet, and some other comment. Remind me when I see you next.
    A couple of asides
    About Monsters – at about the same age, Bayne’s youngest would suddenly say “I am de monster and you are de witch” or vice versa. I’m not sure what we had to say or do but they were certainly characters. Occasionally we were both monsters, but never both witches.
    And a strange thing that happened when I went to type in my name in the logon – I often bump keys as part of the PD clumsiness. Today, somehow, it typed tyddahcharlie – isn’t that odd? Apart from the “h” it’s the correct Aboriginal spelling.
    Good to see you today and that you were happy to be with Greta too. People on the bus home were also talking about the demo, though one of the young ones was a bit scathing about the Vegan push.


    • Hi Charlie. There are worse things it could have called you! Yes, it’s wonderful that punishment doesn’t compute. Long may that continue. I love the witch and monster game. So far Ruby mainly just turns into a dog or a cat, though I think she and I were both chickens for a moment on Thursday – it can be hard to keep up.


  6. huh – charlie a here – it thinks my name is tyddah???


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