Gender and Friendship in a Tender Story

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Introducing Teddy: a gentle story about gender and friendship by Jessica Walton and illustrated by Dougal MacPherson (Bloomsbury, 2016) is a poingnat tale of a little boy Errol and his teddy bear, Thomas.  Like most petites Errol and his trusty companion play together, ride their bikes, plant in the garden and have sandwiches in tree houses for lunch.

One day things change, Thomas didn’t feel like playing.  Errol being an empathetic friend tries to cheer Thomas up by taking him to the park, but it doesn’t work.  Thomas is torn, because he clearly wants to talk to his best friend, but he is worried that once he tells Errol what he is feeling that Errol won’t want to be his friend anymore.  With some gentle reassurance from Errol, Thomas begins to tell him what is on his mind:

Thomas the teddy took a deep breath.  “I need to be myself, Errol.  In my heart, I’ve always known that I’m a girl teddy, not a boy teddy.  I wish my name was Tilly, not Thomas.”

What happens next is the most amazing realization for Tilly, that it doesn’t matter to Errol if he is Thomas or Tilly as long as teddy is his friend.  The story continues in the most accepting and lovely of ways.  Their friend Ava joins them at the park with more encouragement and acceptance.  The message is that whatever makes you happy is what is most important.  That Errol and Ava are true friends because they love Tilly.

The story ends with what I believe to be the most important message, that Errol and Tilly play together, ride their bikes in the backyard, plant in their garden and of course still enjoy sandwiches perched in a tree house; just like they did before.

I think that this book does an amazing job of talking about acceptance, friendship and gender.  We spend a lot of time in our house talking about what we feel and how sometimes we feel more like a girl or a boy and that is all part of being human of being true to yourself.  We believe firmly that everyone has the right to be happy, to be accepted for who they are, not to be judged, but instead loved and supported.  Introducing Teddy, is a book that helps start this conversation with petites, about what it means to be a good friend, to accept your friends for who they are…to be understanding.  What an important lesson to teach at an early age.

Here is a peak into the illustrations from Dougal MacPherson

Also, Bloomsbury has created an  activity pack to go along with the book.

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