03 Apr / When Aidan Became a Brother by Kyle Lukoff, illustrated by Kaylani Juanita [in Shelf Awareness]
“When Aidan was born, everyone thought he was a girl.” But his name, his room, his clothes just didn’t fit. Aidan realized “he was really another kind of boy. It was hard to tell his parents what he knew about himself, it was even harder not to”: Aidan is transgender. With the help of other families with transgender children, Aidan’s family figured things out. Now his parents have announced they are having another child, making Aidan a soon-to-be big brother.
While Aidan wants “to make sure this baby [will] feel understood right away,” strangers seem overly concerned about gender, asking his mother, “Are you having a boy or a girl?” His clever mother is ready with the perfect reply: “I’m having a baby.” When others ask Aidan about having a new brother or sister, Aidan answers, “I’m excited to be a big brother.” And he is! He helps his mother choose between seahorse and penguin outfits, assists his father in painting the baby’s room sky blue and puffy-cloud white, and he practices his read-aloud skills. As the baby’s arrival approaches, he also whispers his fears: “I don’t want them to feel like I did when I was little, but what if I get everything wrong? What if I don’t know how to be a good big brother?” Thoughtfully, his mother explains, “We didn’t know you were going to be our son. We made some mistakes, but you helped us fix them.” Most fundamentally, “you taught us how important it is to love someone for exactly who they are.”
Like Aidan, when author Kyle Lukoff (A Storytelling of Ravens) was born, everyone thought he was a girl; he reveals in his author’s note that parts of his own story are “very much like Aidan’s.” Lukoff hopes to encourage communication with When Aidan Became a Brother: “If you’re a kid who is transgender like Aidan (or transgender but not like Aidan), I’m hoping this story helps you understand what you’re feeling, and helps you talk about it if you’re ready.”
Kaylani Juanita clearly enjoys challenging gender expectations with her digital illustrations. As Aidan explores “different ways of being a boy,” Juanita shows him posing in a superhero cape (with cutouts from his discarded dresses), wearing pink shoes with bows. His wardrobe couldn’t be more gender-defyingly fabulous, comprised of a mishmash of stripes, zig-zags, checks, and animal prints. On Aidan’s desk, the 50,000 Names for Boys and Girls book gets gender-neutralized to 50,000 Names for
Boys babies and Girls babies as he explores names like “moss” and “river.”
Together, Lukoff and Juanita create “a world that supports and believes in [Aidan],” modeling a community that embraces “all different kinds of kids.” With insight and empathy, both author and artist encourage and enable young readers to help “create that world.”
Shelf Talker: When Aidan, a transgender boy, learns he’s going to be a big brother, he helps his parents prepare for the newest addition to their family in the most welcoming ways.