Over 50 residents of Hood County, Texas have filed formal challenges against two LGBTQ-themed children’s picture books found in the local public library. Library director Courtney Kincaid and an advisory board have already refused to move My Princess Boy and This Day in June out of the children’s section, but the Hood County Commissioners may vote on the matter later this month.
Both are typical picture books — that is, they contain colorful pictures and clearly stated language to hold the attention of pre-literate youngsters and beginning readers. My Princess Boy is inspired by author Cheryl Kilodavis’ own gender-nonconforming son Dyson, who proclaimed at five years old in a segment on Today that “I’m a princess boy and I love wearing dresses and I love the colors of pink and red.” Kilodavis wrote and initially self-published the book, she said, as “a tool to hand to people to say, I don’t want you to crush my son’s spirit… I didn’t want that to happen. None of us do, as moms.”
The other book challenged in Hood County, This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman and Kristyna Litten, is a rhyming and kid-friendly description of attending a Pride Parade, e.g.: “Rainbow arches/Joyful marches/Motors roaring/Spirits soaring.” For parents or other adults who have difficulty discussing sexual orientation or gender expression with children, This Day in June even includes an appendix with “suggestions for talking to various age levels of children about LGBT families,” according to a review from School Library Journal.
But while both books are eminently age-appropriate for the children’s section, some residents of Hood County maintain that they promote “perversion” and “the gay lifestyle.” Even a member of the local city council–which thankfully is not the governing body that oversees the library–signed on to a protest against the books. Rose Myers told local news station WFAA:
My decision to sign a protest regarding the book My Princess Boy was clearly based on the fact that if the library would not move the books and keep them in an appropriate location, then they should be removed [...] Can a four year old understand the content of this book without the help of an adult? In my opinion, No!
Apart from the fact that four year olds don’t generally read much of anything on their own, Myers might be surprised at children’s capacity to understand and accept differences. In fact, Kilodavis told Today that after Dyson started wearing dresses at age two, she initially tried to force him to conform until his eight-year-old brother Dkobe asked a simple question that shifted her perspective: “Why can’t you just let him be happy, Mom?” Moreover, gender-nonconforming children obviously will not only “understand the content,” of My Princess Boy, but recognize themselves in a book for perhaps the first time ever.
In response to the controversy, library director Kincaid told WFAA that “we’re here to serve the entire community, not just certain religious groups or political groups. Lesbians and gays are in this community and they deserve to have some items in this collection.” Kincaid did agree to move This Day in June to the children’s nonfiction section since it could be a resource for teachers, but My Princess Boy is staying put in picture books–for now. WFAA reports that Hood County Commissioners plan to address the issue at an upcoming meeting, most likely on July 14, “although it isn’t clear if they will simply hear public comment, or actually vote to either keep or remove the books.” We certainly hope that the commissioners take the time to read both books before they take any action, in order to better understand the role that they fulfill as part of a diverse public library collection.
Contributing Editor Maren Williams is a reference librarian who enjoys free speech and rescue dogs.