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Sparkle Boy

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Casey loves to play with his blocks, puzzles, and dump truck, but he also loves things that sparkle, shimmer, and glitter. When his older sister, Jessie, shows off her new shimmery skirt, Casey wants to wear a shimmery skirt too. When Jessie comes home from a party with glittery nails, Casey wants glittery nails too. And when Abuelita visits wearing an armful of sparkly bracelets, Casey gets one to wear, just like Jessie. The adults in Casey's life embrace his interests, but Jessie isn't so sure. Boys aren't supposed to wear sparkly, shimmery, glittery things. Then, when older boys at the library tease Casey for wearing -girl- things, Jessie realizes that Casey has the right to be himself and wear whatever he wants. Why can't both she and Casey love all things shimmery, glittery, and sparkly? Here is a sweet, heartwarming story about acceptance, respect, and the freedom to be yourself in a world where any gender expression should be celebrated. Sparkly things are for everyone to enjoy!

32 pages, Hardcover

First published June 15, 2017

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About the author

Lesléa Newman

105 books222 followers
Lesléa Newman (born 1955, Brooklyn, NY) is the author of over 50 books including Heather Has Two Mommies, A Letter To Harvey Milk, Writing From The Heart, In Every Laugh a Tear, The Femme Mystique, Still Life with Buddy, Fat Chance and Out of the Closet and Nothing to Wear.
She has received many literary awards including Poetry Fellowships from the Massachusetts Artists Fellowship Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, the Highlights for Children Fiction Writing Award, the James Baldwin Award for Cultural Achievement, and two Pushcart Prize Nominations.
Nine of her books have been Lambda Literary Award finalists.
Ms. Newman wrote Heather Has Two Mommies, the first children's book to portray lesbian families in a positive way, and has followed up this pioneering work with several more children's books on lesbian and gay families: Gloria Goes To Gay Pride, Belinda's Bouquet, Too Far Away to Touch, and Saturday Is Pattyday.
She is also the author of many books for adults that deal with lesbian identity, Jewish identity and the intersection and collision between the two. Other topics Ms. Newman explores include AIDS, eating disorders, butch/femme relationships and sexual abuse. Her award-winning short story, A Letter To Harvey Milk has been made into a film and adapted for the stage.
In addition to being an author, Ms. Newman is a popular guest lecturer, and has spoken on college campuses across the country including Harvard University, Yale University, the University of Oregon, Bryn Mawr College, Smith College and the University of Judaism. From 2005-2009, Lesléa was a faculty member of the Stonecoast MFA program at the University of Southern Maine. Currently, she is the Poet Laureate of Northampton, MA.

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5 stars
347 (38%)
4 stars
374 (41%)
3 stars
130 (14%)
2 stars
33 (3%)
1 star
20 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 202 reviews
Profile Image for Stephanie Bange.
1,602 reviews13 followers
January 9, 2020
Quite a few books have been written recently that feature boys who want to dress in girls' clothes. This one is different in several ways. First, author Leslea Newman has chosen not to make it about specifically wanting to wear girls' clothes -- instead, Casey wants things that are "sparkly", "shimmery", and "glittery". If his sister Jessie was wearing a t-shirt, jeans or shoes that had lights or bling, Casey may very well have wanted to wear those. I think boys can relate to this. Think about how many boys are out there are wearing tennis shoes that light up as they walk... Second, it is his older sister who initially tells him that "boys can't wear that". Casey's parents and grandmother are very supportive and let him experiment, trying on the shiny things. Only when Casey is bullied by the boys in the library does his sister come around to accept his behavior. Finally, the illustrations depict what looks like a Hispanic family, or at least one that has Hispanic roots: the complexion of their skin and the little gold hoop earrings that Jessie wears are indicators. Very few children's picture books feature diverse children who are exploring their sexuality, making this one stand out.
Newman has penned a charming story that can be read without necessarily pushing an agenda (outside of "it's okay to explore new things") and is well matched with Mola's equally charming illustrations.
899 reviews28 followers
June 19, 2019
I just don't see why we need another book about gender-conforming people being jerks to a genderqueer/gender-nonconforming person. Let's please stop teaching children that the default scenario is for gender-expansive children to be treated with invalidation and cruelty.
Profile Image for Nikki.
Author 9 books167 followers
April 22, 2017
Lovely book! As the mom of a boy who liked to sparkle when he was younger, I'm glad this book is in the world.
Profile Image for Rod Brown.
5,540 reviews196 followers
July 28, 2019
The author of Heather Has Two Mommies continues her tradition of breaking down topics adults have difficulty with into picture books that make it easy for children to understand. Gender identity, gender roles, sexual stereotypes and even sibling rivalry get the treatment here.
Profile Image for Dolly.
Author 1 book649 followers
October 19, 2019
There's just so much to love about this book:

I love that it depicts a multicultural family without that being the main topic of the story. A Spanish term for grandmother (Abuelita) is used without it really being highlighted other than as a single glossary term on the verso page of the book.

I love that it depicts some sibling rivalry issues in a completely normal way. Jessie is older and loves sparkly things. Casey, her younger brother, likes age-appropriate things, like blocks, puzzles, dumptrucks, and such, but he also wants to have the same sparkly things his sister does.

I love that their parents are completely unconcerned by his preferences. Casey is a young boy and likes doing 'boy' things, but he also likes to be sparkly, too. After all, "There's no harm in that."

I love that this story also shows an extended family member, in this case, the children's grandmother, being just as loving and accepting as their parents.

I love that it shows a family working through their issues in a kind way, and a sister slowly coming to accept her brother's proclivity for embracing the same sparkly things she does.

I love that Jessie comes to defend Casey, from bullies at the library - she may not have liked that he wore a sparkly skirt and had painted fingernails, but by George, she wasn't going to let anyone else pick on him. That kind of familial love rings so true.

I love that the story doesn't state why Casey likes the shimmery, glittery things. Maybe he is a little jealous of his sister getting to have these things. Maybe he just wants to be like her. Maybe he is showing some inclination for appearing feminine. Or maybe he just likes these things. Maybe it's a phase, maybe it isn't. We don't know, and even more, it doesn't matter either way.

And of course, I love that the story shows the family going to the library for storytime. Any book that shows families going to the library make me smile.

I believe that this book will do good in so many ways. It's a kind story and has just enough drama and conflict to avoid being totally saccharine. The illustrations, rendered in pencil and colored digitally, are nicely detailed and complement the narrative well.

Another great book from Lee & Low, Inc..

"Be Yourself!"
Profile Image for Linda .
3,775 reviews43 followers
January 16, 2018
A young boy loves the sparkle and shine that his older sister gets to wear, in clothing, in nail polish, and in a bracelet from a grandmother. She doesn’t like it, thinks boys should not wear such things. They’re only for girls! As the story goes, the family is supportive and finally, the sister is too when she sticks up for her brother who wears a shimmery skirt on a library trip and gets teased. It may be an opening to talk about differences and choices. The story is rather matter-of-fact and is improved by the sweet illustrations.
Profile Image for Kristine.
23 reviews
October 9, 2021
In the book Sparkle Boy by Leslea Newman, Jessie loves everything that is “shimmery, glittery, and sparkly.” Jessie quickly finds out that her younger brother, Casey, loves these things too. Casey asks for the same things that Jesse has - a shimmery skirt, painted nails, and a beautiful bracelet. The adults in Casey’s life are refreshingly accepting of his choices but Jessie has a hard time embracing Casey’s interests due to fear of judgment from others. When Jesse and Casey went to the library together, Casey gets teased for his gender expression. Casey stands up for her brother and finally comes around and accepts her brother for who he is and how he decides to express himself.

Some positives from this book are Casey is allowed to experiment with gender expression and multiple people from Casey’s family are compassionate and supportive. The author broke down difficult and often ignored subject matter into a stunning picture book that kids can understand and enjoy.

Although I do appreciate the overarching message about acceptance and the subject matter of exploring gender nonconformity, I think the book doesn’t quite hit the mark. The older sister, Jesse, continually invalidates and rejects Casey’s choices. Jesse does not accept Casey until someone else bullies him. I would have liked to see Casey accepted by his sister from her own personal growth instead of her not wanting him to be teased by someone else in public. This book also, unintentionally, reinforces what people think boys can or can’t do through dialogue. There are many quotes between characters saying that that _____ is not what boys are supposed to do. For young children exploring their gender identities and expressions, hearing this language so consistently throughout the book could be difficult.

Overall I am glad this book was made and look forward to reading more books that support genderqueer and gender-nonconforming children and their journeys of acceptance. I found this book from Kirkus Reviews.
6 reviews1 follower
September 20, 2017
Awesome intent, really bad execution. I mean, *spoiler alert* but Sparkle Boy gets bullied at the library and the solution is that he should only be sparkly at home? I'm glad that his sister sees the light but I wish it had a broader message of acceptance.

I was so so very excited for this book to come out, and the illustrations are lovely. I got it for my library's collection but ultimately sent it back because of that takeaway and it was painfully didactic.

This is an important topic, and for anyone looking for a title that IMHO gets the same basic message across in a much better way, try Bunnybear by Andrea J. Loney.
Profile Image for Jenni Frencham.
1,284 reviews52 followers
October 25, 2017
Not technically LGBT, since the main character doesn't declare a gender identity or orientation, but the fact that this boy likes sparkly things makes this a perfect book for families raising gender-creative or gender-nonconforming kids.
Profile Image for Xan Rooyen.
Author 34 books111 followers
June 22, 2020
Super cute! And this sends a great message to kids about exploring their self-expression and breaking out of traditional gender norms.
Author 1 book9 followers
August 2, 2018
Sparkle, sparkle, little boy.

This story structure has been done to death. Younger sibling is doing something harmless that older sibling doesn't approve of. Siblings go somewhere. An outsider criticizes younger sibling for doing said behavior. Older sibling gets mad and sticks up for younger sibling out of solidarity. Older sibling now accepts behavior in younger sibling as if they had never had problems with it to begin with. The end.

I don't find this realistic, and I don't find the change in the older sibling meaningful. They aren't accepting the behavior because of its inherent harmlessness (or even benefits), they are merely switching sides, like they're the only one allowed to insult their sibling. I'm one of those people who doesn't think that Darth Vader earned his redemption at the end of Return of the Jedi. Protecting his son is not the same thing as standing up to the evil of the empire that he helped perpetuate.

But back to this book, specifically. A boy named Casey has an older sister named Jessie. (This is especially weird for me, because my nickname growing up was "Casey" and my younger sister's name is also "Jessie." But I digress. Again.) Jessie likes shimmery and sparkly things, and then Casey, who seems to be about 2 or 3 years old given his vocabulary ("Ooh, sparkly, sparkly. I want sparkly"), sees what she has and wants the same things. Jessie says, "You can't wear a skirt, because you're a boy. Right, Mom?" And the mom says, "No, that's fine with me. Here, have an old skirt that your sister outgrew." Jessie's painting her nails and they're all sparkly, and Casey says, "I want those too." Jessie says, "Daddy, boys don't wear glittery nail polish." And the dad says, "Well I don't see why not. Here, let's try this." And then the grandmother, Abuelita, (so they're a Hispanic family apparently, although the dad's blonde, so maybe mixed-race) gives Jessie a sparkly bracelet, and then Casey wants one too. Jessie says, "You can't have one." Then Abuelita says, "I've never seen a boy wear sparkly bracelets... until now." Then they call him Sparkle Boy. Jessie's mad. She's kind of jealous, I think, that he's basically co-opting everything she thought was uniquely hers. I totally understand; that kind of copying behavior is both super common and super annoying.

Then they go visit the library and Jessie and Casey both have sparkly skirts, painted sparkly nails, and sparkly bracelets. A little girl says to Jessie, "Oh, I like your skirt. And I like your sister's skirt." Casey says, "I'm not a sister, I'm a brother." And the girl says, "Well, you can't be that, you're a girl." He says, "No, I'm a boy." Then a couple of older boys laugh at him and one of them says, "'Dude, you can't go around wearing a skirt.' 'Why?' Casey asked. 'Because you look weird, and everyone will laugh at you.'" So they're laughing at him because everybody will laugh at him, in a circular reasoning kind of way. Instead of going into the (completely invalid) reasons that people might have to raise an issue with this, and shooting them down. Okay, I get it. The kids probably don't understand what's going on, because all of the discrimination is depicted as being from kids towards kids, and that's probably realistic, but what did we learn here? Nothing.

"Boys don't wear skirts and bracelets and nail polish. Everybody knows that." Casey, starting to tear up, asks his sister if she agrees, and she says, "Why can't boys wear skirts and bracelets and nail polish?" And the other say, "Because that's just the way it is." And she says, "Not anymore." It makes it sound like she's making a huge stand, or like she has some kind of power to change the world, when she's just making the decision not to be annoyed by this one behavior of her brother. And then they go home, and she's okay with him being "sparkly" from then on.

Can't we have her come to that conclusion on her own, instead of only in solidarity with her brother? Like if everybody else was okay with it, would she have eventually come around? Or would she have stayed totally against it? It just seems strange and contrived. Like, "I'm the only one who can make fun of this person, you're not allowed to. Because I do it out of love, or whatever." As if a friend or family member's joking insults have never hurt anyone's feelings.

I was hoping to find something that would address the topic of boys being allowed to express themselves in traditionally feminine ways. This isn't a bad book; it just doesn't really fully address it. Don't get me wrong, I think it's great that it exists. It's a good start in this topic, but I think more books need to be written about this sort of thing. Just as girls have had male role models for many many years, it needs to be okay for boys to have female ones. Girls can wear pants and suits. Boys can wear skirts and dresses. On Halloween, nobody bats an eye if a girl dresses up as a specific male character. But boys can't dress up as female characters; that's not allowed. I want to move past the 1970s, Monty Python style humor of "Look, ha ha, it's a man in a dress instead of a woman." Because it's not funny when a woman dresses up as a man, it's just out of the norm. And what we're saying is, of course women dress up as men; men are more powerful. Clearly women should want to be men. Men are superior. And anyway, men are the default. But they don't have to be. And they shouldn't be.

Message: It's okay for boys to wear sparkly dresses.

For more children's book reviews, see my website at http://www.drttmk.com.
Profile Image for Jae.
435 reviews12 followers
September 7, 2017
I like the illustrations and the message is an important one, but it does come off as didactic, which I don't love.
Profile Image for Barbara.
13.2k reviews277 followers
July 8, 2017
I'm pleased to have this book in my possession as its content--and author--once again strike a note for embracing the things you love, even when others might not understand. After all, who decides what toys and objects are for girls and which ones are for boys? In this important picture book, Casey enjoys playing with his blocks and dump truck, but he also loves things that are shiny. He's fascinated by his older sister Jessie's shimmery skirt and glittery nails as well as his grandmother's sparkly bracelets. His supportive parents have no problem with Casey's fashion choices, but Jessie disapproves. But when the siblings visit the library, Jessie changes her tune and defends her brother from two bullies who make fun of him. I loved how Jessie shut those boys down when push came to shove and how the older members of the family had no problem with allowing Casey to explore his identity and how it was Jessie who initially felt embarrassed by her brother's interests. As the simple text and lively illustrations, created in pencil and the colored digitally, make clear, everyone deserves the chance to shine, no matter which way they choose to do so. This is another one of those useful books to expand notions of gender and what is acceptable. Won't it be marvelous when picture books such as this one and experiences such as Casey's are commonplace and no longer raise eyebrows?
Author 1 book57 followers
July 7, 2017
Casey is a little boy who loves all things sparkly. When his older sister Jessie wears a sparkly skirt, he wants one, too. When she paints her nails, he wants to, too. When she gets a sparkly bracelet, he wants one, too. Although Jessie doesn't understand it, their parents and grandmother accept it as Casey being Casey. When he is bullied at the library, Jessie finds a way to look beyond the accepted and take her brother as he is. Similar to Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress, this is a story of being who you are and not seeing labels in everything that is done.
Profile Image for Mary Lee.
3,008 reviews55 followers
July 1, 2017
Loved the tension in the story when Casey's sister, who didn't like it that he wore sparkly, glittery things, stood up for him in the end.
Profile Image for David.
619 reviews139 followers
November 6, 2021
Young Jessie has a younger brother Casey who likes what is older sister is wearing - a shimmery skirt and glittery nails. Mom and Dad are fine but Jessie is just old enough (elementary school, she looks maybe age 8) to have seen the defined dress code by gender and frowns at her brother. Even Abuelita gives Casey a sparkley bracelet (like Jessie has).

It is interesting that Jessie is the one having the most problems accepting that Casey simply wants to copy her. Wearing the skirt and glitter to the library gets some more scoffs by other kids at Casey. Jessie quickly defends her brother and they go home to play happily.

Nice family-unity here, but I didn't really like seeing all the kids so anti-glitter so immediately on very young Casey (who looks about age 4). Don't ALL preschool kids dress up as anything they can care to try?

While this book showed great family acceptance for whatever Jessie wanted, it showed a slightly harsh world from every other kid Jessie encountered.

3.5, but per my last comment, I round down.

I saw this book in the list of 800+ books attempting to be banned- by Texas state Rep Matt Krause.
37 reviews
October 2, 2020
If you are looking for a book that encourages children to express themselves, including their gender identities and expressions, fully and freely, I would look for another selection. The titular Sparkle Boy gets very little voice or character in this book, which centers around the older sister in the family rejecting sparkle boy's requests to share in all things sparkly, shiny, glittery, etc. The other members of the family permit their youngest child to wear what they like, but also say things like, "doesn't hurt anyone", which reads as tolerance rather than acceptance. Peers bully sparkle boy, as well. This book shows persistent push-back to Sparkle Boy's expression, but doesn't follow up with deep warmth, care, and support from those around them.

I would recommend readers looking for something on these topics turn instead to Juliàn is a Mermaid, by Jessica Love. For an example of children experiencing discrimination and responding to it or ignoring it with the support of their families and friends, I would suggest The Proudest Blue.
582 reviews12 followers
April 20, 2019
Casey likes sparkly, shiny things: skirts, bracelets..."girly" stuff. The adults in his house are happy to let him be, but his sister struggles accepting this. When the time comes, she will stand up for her brother. Good story.

We've drilled into our daughter that we all can like whatever we want, so she was always behind Casey and his tastes.

The story reminded me when I was a kid in the 80s and my sister painted my nails to look like a rock star (think Poison or Motley Crue). My mother went crazy, but it was fun and I'm happy to think my sis supported me. I should thank her for that. She probably doesn't even remember.
November 7, 2021
Sparkle Boy is a beautiful book about a little boy (Casey) who loves sparkly things (sparkly nails, clothing, and jewelry). Jessie who is the sister of sparkle boy is upset throughout the book about her brother wearing "girl" things, but Jessie learns by the end to accept her brother as he is.

This book made me think about the importance of letting our students know that it is okay to be themselves no matter what that looks like. I believe the message of this book is to be who you are and like what you like even if it's "only for girls" and embrace it (SPARKLE no matter what anyone says). I think this book would benefit upper elementary school kids, especially those children who struggle accepting people who don't look like what society normalizes for genders because in this book brings up how doing "girl" things (such as painting your nails or wearing sparkly things) is not right if you're a boy.

As for younger children I think this book might confuse them and will have them questioning why certain thing are considered to be only for girls.
Profile Image for Andrew.
2,052 reviews49 followers
January 21, 2021
You can't wear a skirt, have painted nails or wear sparkly jewelry! That's what girls do!
Casey likes his blocks and trucks too. Why can't he do both?
His sister Jessie doesn't think that it's okay, though she doesn't quite know why. However, their parents and abuela are very supportive of Casey's choices...But will everyone be?

Both Leslea Newman and Maria Mola, as respective #OwnVoices author and illustrator, bring together a fun, supportive and very sparkly story of identity and love!
25 reviews1 follower
January 24, 2022
I really enjoyed how this book addressed the typical gender stereotypes that are made. It highlights the importance of everyone creating a normal for themselves, rather than what seems normal to everyone else because of what they are taught. This book also encourages being a supportive friend/sibling/parent/relative to someone who might experience a similar situation. Being yourself is the most important aspect to life.
Profile Image for Kristin.
168 reviews21 followers
August 24, 2017
Similar to Jacob's New Dress, Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress, and Big Bob, Little Bob, this picture books focuses on Casey, a little boy who likes things that other kids tell him aren't for boys. Casey, however, wants to shimmer, glitter, and sparkle just like his older sister. His mother, father, abuelita, and, finally, his sister tell him that he can be a boy and like glittery, sparkly, and shimmery things. While the books isn't treading completely new ground, it does bring diversity and reasserts that children should be themselves, despite what others think or do.
Profile Image for Kate Reilly.
3 reviews
September 27, 2019
There is a lot to love about Sparkle Boy. Sparkle Boy follows a little boy who loves everything that glitters. While most of his family is supportive, his sister finds it odd that he likes "girl things". This book explores the topics of gender, identity, and stereotypes in a way that is accessible and relatable to young children. Breaking down gender expectations and biases is no small feat, and this book does that while remaining relatable to young children. Sparkle Boy was a Storytelling World Resource Awards Honor Book in 2018. Embracing difference and being true to yourself are important lessons in inclusion for young children. This story would work well for a class in the process of building community, and would tie in well to lessons on identity or on teasing.
Profile Image for Kris.
3,067 reviews69 followers
December 30, 2017
I’m glad that there are more books out there for young kids that address gender stereotypes and non-conformity. I thought it realistically portrayed the sister being uncomfortable with her little brother who likes sparkly things, but while I was glad she stood up for him in the end, I found it a bit cliched that she came to accept him after she has to defend him from bullies.
Profile Image for Vicki.
566 reviews
July 13, 2018
Love how the adults affirm young Casey’s choices and how sister Jessie models what kind of feedback Casey could get - and then changes her mind to defend him. Heartwarming and well done as well as easy to read aloud and discuss.
February 4, 2020
Such a good book that brings up a topic that needs to be addressed especially with younger children. Not only does it bring up an important topic, it does so in a way that makes it easy for children to understand and make sense of it.
Profile Image for Sam.
123 reviews5 followers
June 15, 2021
Such a lovely story about a young boy wanting to join in the wearing of a sparkly skirt, then a sparkly bracelet, and sparkly nail polish. Each time he is told no by his big sister, who ultimately stands up for him when he gets teased for wearing these things.
Profile Image for Margie Sierra.
44 reviews
February 20, 2022
A little boy who wants to wear a skirt, nail polish, and a bracelet is in love with glitter and sparkles. I think the story has a way of showing children that you can wear whatever you want and that nothing is specifically for one gender or the other.
I think this book is more about a boy wanting to bond with the women (sister mostly) in his family and there is nothing wrong with adoring shimmer and sparkly things.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 202 reviews

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