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A House for Everyone: A Story to Help Children Learn about Gender Identity and Gender Expression

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At lunchtime, all of Tom's friends gather at school to work together building their house. Each one of them has a special job to do, and each one of them has a different way of expressing their gender identity.

Jackson is a boy who likes to wear dresses. Ivy is a girl who likes her hair cut really short. Alex doesn't feel like 'just' a boy, or 'just' a girl. They are all the same, they are all different - but they are all friends.

A very simple story that challenges gender stereotypes and shows 4 to 8 year olds that it is OK to be yourself. An engaging story that is more than just an educational tool; this book will assist parents and teachers in giving children the space to explore the full spectrum of gender diversity and will show children the many ways they can express their gender in a truly positive light.

32 pages, Hardcover

First published May 21, 2018

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About the author

Jo Hirst

2 books2 followers
Jo Hirst is a former Primary School teacher who wrote Australia’s first picture book for transgender children, The Gender Fairy.

Growing up in a family that didn’t believe in gender stereotyping, Jo’s mother was a builder who liked working with her hands. Her father was an English teacher with a talent for story telling.

Jo is passionate about writing books that challenge some of the stereotypes in our society and allow all children to see themselves represented in literature.

She lives by the seaside in Melbourne, Australia, with her partner and two sons, one of whom is transgender.

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5 stars
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41 (30%)
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46 (34%)
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10 (7%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 39 reviews
Profile Image for Laura.
2,768 reviews82 followers
April 27, 2018
While this book bends over to be inclusive, and gender fluid, and make sure everyone comes to the party, so to speak, it spends so much time pattying itself on the back, it kind of foregets to have an engaging story. I almost feel as though the whole book is an introduction to all the different genders of the kids at this particular school, and we never get to the meat of the story.

And while the pictures are very colorful, and the different ways to be a child are explained in great detail, I left wondering what I had just read. I had to read it again to make sure I hadn't missed anything.

So, I like the principle of the story, that "even though we are all a little bit different, we are still the same and we are friends."

So, good introduction to kids on gender identity, but this would not be a book they would fall in love with and read over and over again. This is more to bring up discussions.

Thanks to Netgalley for making this book available for an honest review.
Profile Image for Saturniidead ★.
155 reviews18 followers
February 16, 2023
Content warnings are listed at the end of my review!

This is unfortunately just another not trans created book that reads exactly as such. The contents are typical, they don't go particularly far aside from showing a few gender nonconforming and trans characters, a small amount of characterization, and a very simple story to tie it together. The issue is, it really doesn't stand out against every other book that does the same exact thing, in fact, it's weaker elements (minimalist overarching story and the artwork was recognizably lackluster, which I'll say more on). To put it briefly, all the story has is the children love lunchtime, they all come together to build a house, each child offers a special skill to do a certain part of making the house, and there's gender nonconforming and trans rep.

Going into this, it gave me this faint recollection of Who Are You?: The Kid's Guide to Gender Identity, low and behold, they are connected through the shared illustrator Naomi Bardoff. Bardoff's style has grown from the prior entry, but even in this book I'm still don't enjoy it. How the brushes are used and the quality overall conveys a lack of experience with digital art, the stroke heavy style is either too cartoony and blocky or extremely muddy and undistinguishable. The shading in some places is presentably done, but in other places it looks incredibly rushed and garbled (On the page showing the character Ivy running, her hand looks like it has been ran over and then poorly put back together). I really can't find much of any information or recent activity from Bardoff anywhere, but her about on multiple pages has this line, "I’m an earthbender, a druid, and a Ravenclaw."

This is my ongoing issue with these kinds of books is the lack of transparent transgender involvement at the very least, and some actual wholehearted effort- not these "final products" that look and read no better than a concept draft. I could handle the sloppy illustration or fine but incomplete story that's just the equivalent of wiki-stubs of random kids if they were separate, but together it just feels laughable at best, cash grab at worst. Side note, the tiny resources portion in the back simultaneously acknowledges that "Some children might need time to explore their gender identity to work it out." while also defining transgender children with "...insistent, consistent, and persistent that their gender identity does not match the gender they were assigned at birth."

Readability: ★★★☆☆, The story is easy enough to follow, it's just not memorable, not particularly educational, and doesn't do much. It works for what it is trying to do, but doesn't make an effort to do much more than just get by.

Entertainment: ★☆☆☆☆, I'm honestly just offended by how lazy it comes off as. Thankfully there's nothing downright transphobic about what it is saying or presenting ("Ravenclaw" illustrator aside), it just is such a shabby book.

Audience: I don't recommend buying this, but if you have it in your collection or want to check it out at a library, it at the very least isn't harmful.

Content Warnings: dysphoria
3,235 reviews28 followers
March 19, 2018
I like the inclusiveness of this book. I think it might be best read one on one with a child rather that as a group, unless there was a need to. I'm not sure how all of it works with gender any more. As far as I can tell, it's all about who or what you feel you need to be at any given time and that's confusing. I personally would not use it with a young child, unless said child announced it was some other sex than that which it was born. I would never give a small child an option to be other, but would never discourage a child from playing with particular toys or activities as they they were only for one particular sex or another. Gender biases always troubled me when it came to toys. I know of far too many little boys who's mothers made fun of them for wanting baby dolls. And girls who were discouraged from playing with science sets. Just wrong. But anyone identifying as a plural really puzzles me. I have yet to find a book that explains that. Nice illustrations.
Profile Image for Sage Staples.
12 reviews1 follower
March 19, 2018
A House for Everyone by Jo Hirst depicts children on an adventure to collectively build a house together. The author uses cooperative learning and diversity to show that, when working together, children can accomplish a common goal with each individual's contributions. Each child is introduced with information about their likes, mannerisms, and pronouns that they use. This book fulfills a need in children's literature to demonstrate that more inclusive spaces can be created and diversity is important when fulfilling tasks, as everyone has something unique to bring to the house.

As for diversity, the book features the introduction of one trans child and one nonbinary child along with three cis children. There is evidence for racial and ethnic diversity. The author may consider adding characters with disabilities in future children's books. This book is relatively intersectional in our current context and time; however, it could always be improved!

In regard to pronouns, Alex uses they/them pronouns (much like myself). I appreciated the addition of this character. Although they/them pronouns are widely used among gender-expansive individuals, the author could also consider incorporating the plethora of pronouns used by individuals. Additionally, it is important to note that some individuals do not use any pronouns at all. Overall, the book does a fabulous job of introducing the idea of pronouns through having cis, trans, and nonbinary children all introduce their pronouns. This action normalizes how pronouns are something to be introduced, not assumed.

At the end of the book, there is a section to introduce definitions and discussions. The author defines gender identity and expression as two separate concepts. While these definitions are quite accurate, I would encourage the author to look at the Trans Student Educational Resources website definition for a gender identity definition. Using the terms, boy, girl, or something else all together has an othering aspect to it. Additionally, "something else" make it feel as though trans and nonbinary individuals are "things" or less than human. The discussion points at the end of the book are absolutely fabulous and heartwarming. I am glad to see the author trying to go beyond the current culture of children's literature.

Lastly, regarding the structure of the book, it tends to deviate from the central narrative from time to time. The narrative could be more cohesive; however, it did portray the points it wanted to portray.

Wonderful read!
Profile Image for Elizabeth.
1,297 reviews53 followers
February 9, 2020

I was a little nervous/dubious about this book coming into it, based on the GR reviews that suggested it didn't actually have a story to go along with the educating-about-gender -- but while it does feel a little like there's a lot of explanation about each character's identity (relative to the total amount of text), I do feel like the narrative of the house the children are building together feels like an actual narrative that carries the reader through the story.

I super-appreciate that the characters include 2 boys who present in some feminine ways but not only get to still be he-pronoun boys but also don't soley have stereotypically-feminine characteristics (Sam is a white boy with long hair who plays basketball, and Jackson is a black boy who is very strong and loves wearing dresses and has a collection of sparkly shoes).

I am a little bummed that there's only one girl in the whole cast of characters. (Ivy is a tomboy girl, and our other characters are Alex who uses they pronouns and Tom who is a trans boy.) I get that there are only so many identities one can represent in a single narrative, and positive modeling for gender-non-conforming/feminine boys is definitely very important. But it did feel like a bit of a lack in this book.
Profile Image for Iggylizard.
89 reviews
March 19, 2018
This is an excellent book for introducing different gender identities to young children without confusing them with all the big labels. I would most definitely recommend this book. It tells the story of all different type of children working together to build a house on the playground and all the wonderful things that each child contributes. At the end, it discusses how they are all different, but they are all friends.
Profile Image for RaiseThemRighteous.
99 reviews13 followers
October 12, 2018

A House for Everyone (2018), written by Jo Hirst and illustrated by Naomi Bardoff, introduces children to a range of gender expressions and identities while shattering stereotypes about gender norms. Bardoff’s rich and inviting images work wonderfully with Hirst’s text, which would otherwise struggle to deliver its message. This timely contribution to the ever-growing canon of LGBTQ* children’s literature presents gender with care and a much-needed matter-of-factness likely to appeal to adult readers using the text to encourage conversations about gender and acceptance.

We are introduced to the cast of characters enjoying various activities on their school playground. It is very difficult to “read” gender on the bodies of the joyfully playing children. The children soon decide to work together to “build a house for everyone.” This is accomplished cooperatively and successfully by allowing each child’s unique strengths and passions to guide the project. For instance, tan-skinned Ivy, a young girl with short dark hair is the fastest runner in the group. She runs all around the playground collecting sticks for the house. Ivy’s hair and boyish clothes could mark her as a boy, but she is cisgender even though she does not conform to gender expectations. Another child, the pale-skinned Alex, prefers the pronoun “they” and does not identify as a girl or boy. Sam, a long-haired boy whose black hair contrasts with his light pink-toned skin, collects plants and flowers. He decorates the house, so it will look beautiful. The brown-skinned curly-haired Jackson is a boy who likes to wear dresses. He is very strong and carries heavy rocks to put inside the house to “make comfortable seats for everyone.” Tom, a deep-tan young boy, likes to spell and arranges rocks to create a “welcome” sign in front of the home. When he was born everyone thought he was a girl but now they understand he was always a boy.

As these descriptions show, children can explore their full complexity on this very special playground. Gender identity is not tied to gendered affinities for socially prescribed girl and boy clothes, toys, or activities. Ivy, Sam, and Jackson are cisgender, they identify with the gender they were assigned at birth, although they do not conform to gender stereotypes about hair length or activities. The fast Ivy runs all over collecting sticks, the creative Sam decorates their home, and the strong dress-wearing Jackson carried large rocks. Alex, a non-binary child, has an able mind for engineering the building and Tom, a transgender child, enjoys the cerebral world of spelling over collecting materials and building.

Refreshingly inclusive, the text offers gender creative, non-binary, and transgender children much needed representations of kids like them. It also provides cisgender students with permission not to conform to stereotypes that would force them to experience and express narrow gender ideals.

I love the decision not to include adults, who so often introduce gender policing into children’s lives. On the playground, this magical in-between place, at school but not in it, after one class, before another, the children in this book have no trouble seeing each other.

This is one of the most inclusive picture books about gender identity and expression I have come across and I highly recommend it for school and personal libraries. This can easily be read with children three and up. The author provides a practical resource guide including definitions and discussion prompts for parents and teachers not familiar with terminology introduced. Highly recommended.
182 reviews6 followers
March 20, 2018
This is an excerpt of a review was originally published on my website: Miss Jenny's Classroom

This is the story about a group of children who come together to build a house for them all to share. Along the way the reader gets to know about each child and what gender they identify and what the like/dislike doing in everyday life.

This is definitely a hot topic at the moment and this is the first book I have read that attempts to address gender identity with children in a child environment (eg. the playground). On the surface this comes across as a good book to use with children on a 1-on-1 basis but I would be wary using it as a whole class book for a couple of reasons which I'll discuss as I go.

The use of 'their' for the non binary child. This was confusing even for me as an adult. I think I read Alex's pages about 5 times just to get that it was talking about one child. I get that Alex identifies as non-binary (neither male or female) but the term 'their' (while widely accepted for this use) is just confusing.If 'their' had been eliminated in favour of just using 'Alex' as the preferred way to be addressed I feel it would be much easier for children to understand.

I also mentioned above that this book has the potential to exclude as much as include. Why? And this is where, if you think too much, the book can get complicated...where is the girl who loves horses and does have long hair? Where is the boy with short hair who likes trucks - Yes, these are often deemed "stereotypical portrayals" of children - but what I've just described is each of my own children - children who have been free to pick and choose what to play with etc. So how do these children relate to the book? The book does mention "other friends come and join us" but there is no context there for connections to be made.

On some level I feel this book is trying too hard to make the point. It's trying to cover everything in a handful of pages and for me it doesn't quite work. An individual book about each child might have worked better - although I acknowledge then it would have been difficult for the overarching theme of working together couldn't be made.

Special thanks to Jessica Kingsley Publishers and NetGalley for providing me with a free advance copy of the book.
October 11, 2018
“A House for Everyone” (realistic fiction) begins by describing a scene of children working together to build a house out of sticks at recess. Through the author's description of the activity, the reader is introduced to diverse children who do not conform to society’s gender norms. Not only does this story introduce a variety of different gender identities, such as non-binary and transgender, it also provides an example of friendship and collaboration despite differences. Furthermore, not only are the children diverse regarding their gender identity, but are also diverse in their cultural composition. While no negative implications about the children are found, I am concerned that the children's gender identity may be oversimplified due to the brevity of their inclusion in the text. On the flip side, by introducing children of diverse gender identity, children with similar identities can see themselves represented in the literature. Connecting the children to their passions could also help young readers understand that gender doesn't make someone different than ourselves.

Looking at the book from an educator's perspective, I believe that "A House for Everyone" could help start a conversation about gender identity with students. This book would be a valuable addition to classroom libraries in the mid-elementary grade levels due to the vocabulary and illustrations that students may be confused about at first glance. Because of these reasons, it may be beneficial to student learning for a teacher to read along with students in order to discuss new vocabulary and help students see gender from a new perspective.
Profile Image for Carolyn.
70 reviews11 followers
February 10, 2021
The text is clear and the illustrations are straightforward. It's short, informative, and works well as a teaching resource to introduce gender identity and gender expression, not in-depth exploration of the subject. It includes activity questions to talk about identity (what kinds of games do they like to play?, what do they like to wear and why?, can anyone do that/wear that?), a lesson plan (having students draw themselves and their friend to create a "We are all the same. We are all different. We are all friends" mural), and a list of for further reading.
250 reviews7 followers
July 5, 2023
It's not a storybook; it's meant as an educational resource and I think people might be missing that. That said, I'm not sure how engaging kids would find it. It's fine but a little bland. It's been a while since I was a kid, to be fair, but the books I had that were like this often worked pretty hard to be funny and attention-getting. This doesn't have much personality. I can see it being a good introduction to the subject of gender expression and differentiating it from gender identity, though.
Profile Image for McKenna Paul.
36 reviews
September 4, 2018
Published May 21st 2018 by Jessica Kingsley Publishers
A House for Everyone isn't just for children's read aloud, but, has information and values to offer adults as well. The back of the books includes; Topics for discussion, lesson plans, further readings on gender, resources, notes for grownups, and supporting children section. A book for today's generation.
Profile Image for Evie.
834 reviews10 followers
April 27, 2019
Has a very important message and gives gentle and accessible examples of different identities, but isn't the most engaging in terms of a story. It's more about discussion than story, and so I'm not exactly sure if this would work in a group setting with kids who need to be engaged. But, maybe I'm wrong! Has anyone tried?
Profile Image for Lara Bate.
1,337 reviews1 follower
June 2, 2020
A House for Everyone: A story to help children learn about Gender identity and Gender Expression by Jo Hirst is a story of children who build a house from sticks. The story discusses how children identify as male, female or neither male or female and introduces pronouns when addressing the children.
Profile Image for Gavin Lobe.
45 reviews
August 17, 2022
A group of kids help each other to build a house during recess. Each child is introduced to the reader, including their name, pronouns, choice of favorite clothes, and other ways they express themselves. This story promotes being friends with all types of people.
Profile Image for Helen.
21 reviews2 followers
July 6, 2023
Transmasculine identities are very underrepresented in the picture book world, so while the narrative didn’t have much forward-propulsion, addressing this imbalance for transmasc kids makes me give this 5 stars.
Profile Image for Esperanza.
Author 14 books2 followers
February 16, 2019
A wonderful book about children with varying types of dress, hairstyle, pronouns. Worth a read.
Profile Image for BiblioBeruthiel.
1,957 reviews15 followers
April 25, 2019
I fully support more books like this for children about gender expression. This particular volume is good but a little heavy handed. Excited this exists though.
Profile Image for Katey (Kaje).
168 reviews13 followers
February 3, 2021
Beautifully inclusive and would be a great talking point, but it lacks the story that kids will be drawn to.
Profile Image for KaitandMaddie.
3,078 reviews7 followers
March 15, 2021
When we hit the they/them pronouns, Kait exclaimed, “Like you!”

Representation matters.
Profile Image for Abby.
1,031 reviews4 followers
September 29, 2022
Beautiful, simple, models pronouns and varied gender expression as well as personal behavior/clothing choices as kids come together for cooperative play.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 39 reviews

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