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Except When They Don't
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Except When They Don't

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  181 ratings  ·  36 reviews
This rhyming picture book encourages children to celebrate their individuality and lets them know that it's okay to play with whatever toys they want to!

Girls perform to fairy songs.
Boys play football all day long.

Boys yell, "Boo!" and run away.
Girls like kittens and ballet.

Except when they don't.

Children are often told by many different people about what toys they're
Hardcover, 32 pages
Published May 21st 2019 by little bee books
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Average rating 3.85  · 
Rating details
 ·  181 ratings  ·  36 reviews

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Jun 21, 2019 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Readers Looking for New Picture-Books to Combat Gender Stereotypes in Childhood Play
Author Laura Gehl, creator of the Peep and Egg picture-books, teams up with illustrator Joshua Heinsz in this rhyming picture-book meant to encourage children to play in any way that they like, regardless of traditional ideas of gender. The text presents some obvious "boy" and "girl" activities, seemingly upholding the pink/blue divide, only to subvert it each time with the titular refrain. In the end, the narrator encourages all children to just be themselves...

One of a number of recent
Nov 07, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: children
Woof, as well-intentioned as this book is - and as great as the illustrations are! - I think if you spend half of the books saying "boys do this and girls do this", you MUST, MUST make the same kind of unequivocal statements to counteract them. Say: "SOME BOYS WEAR DRESSES". "SOME GIRLS ARE PIRATES." Say it VERY explicitly! "Except when they don't" seems like kind of an advanced concept for the kids in this reading range. Putting your message solely in the illustrations and kind of wishy-washy ...more
Aug 12, 2019 added it
Recommended to Elizabeth by:
Shelves: gender, picturebooks

This book is well-intentioned -- noting that boys do X and girls do Y ... except when they don't.

But it spends so much time at the beginning with "boys do X and girls do Y" that I felt like it was reinscribing that, even though I knew the book was eventually going to undercut that. And as other reviewers have noted, it doesn't say anything about kids who aren't boys or girls, or even acknowledge that that's a possibility. The book closes with "Everywhere from near to far ... be exactly who
Aug 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Very sweet book pointing out the stereotypes about boys and girls and they often don’t fit. And that’s it’s ok. Lots of differences in the world.
Jul 13, 2019 rated it it was ok
Can we stop making books about gender that only looks at it from a binary perspective? Thank you
Jun 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
A straight-forward book that takes on gender stereotypes directly. There’s not really a story, but definitely a useful book to help with conversations about gender stereotypes.
Children often look up to parents as teachers and guides. They follow their parents’ rules and encouragements (for the most part) and rely on them for support. When we’re children, our parents are the ones to sign us up for sports and lay our clothes out on the bed. But, what if we don’t want to kick a dirty soccer ball or wear that pink frilly dress?

The children’s book Except When They Don’t (little bee books), written by Laura Gehl and Joshua Heinsz, explains that it’s okay for a boy or girl
Sep 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Girls play tea party and dress up in pink and jewels, while boys play with trucks and fight with their friends. This story describes the different stereotypes associated with boys and girls and states them as facts. However, this ends with the phrase, “Except when they don’t”. Gehl describes that while some girls and boys may fit the stereotypes, it is okay if they do not and would rather play football instead of be a ballerina or dance instead of scaring others. The story ends with Gehl ...more
Aug 14, 2019 rated it did not like it
If you are going to be a bear, be a grizzly bear! If you are going to tell children something, then TELL them! Don't waste your book, messing around with 3/4 of it, and then decide to get to your unclear point. Sheesh.

And, if you are going to represent, then please, represent! Not all races/people groups are represented. I did not see one exceptional child represented. I saw the girl symbol but not the boy symbol. I did not see any religious symbols of any type. Let's diversify our diversity
Feb 11, 2020 added it
This book is about not fitting into gendered stereotypes. I think I was expecting more out of it -- whilst I was reading it to Mr Oliver I worried that the message "except when they don't" was being lost on him because the drawings tended to stick closer to gendered expectations than not -- like the football player who was a cheerleader. He said he didn't like this book but I think it was because he is afraid of frogs and there was a dino on the back cover. I don't really know. I think this ...more
Nov 21, 2019 rated it liked it
This is a sweet book, appropriate for story time, Pre-K-K classrooms, or one-on-one reading. Unfortunately, it doesn't quiiiiite live up to it's full potential, so I'm going to say very few readers really need to own this one; support your local public library.

The illustrations are the best part-- bright, emotive, and action-packed. The text is too spare. While the amount of space for the art and white space is lovely, the writing feels truncated, rushed. A solid three-star book, but not a

I enjoy reading aloud books that rhythm. This one is full of delightful illustrations of children who refuse to
stereotyped. It encourages kids to be themselves and provides opportunities to talk about why there are no girl or boy activities. Use your imagination and be whatever you want.

“Girls think ponies are a blast.
Boys like race cars, loud and fast.

Except when they don’t.”

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this title will be donated to accelerating LGBTQ acceptance.

Sarah Prager
Oct 08, 2019 rated it liked it
I felt that this book spent too much time describing typically gendered behaviors before saying “except when they don’t.” I felt uncomfortable reading it to my 3-year-old saying all of the sentences like girls are princesses and boys like sports. It took too many pages, I think over half the book, to get to a too-small amount of “except when they don’t.” The last pages should have been most of the book. (Though I of course appreciate more books like this coming out!)
Sep 11, 2019 rated it it was ok
For the life of me I cannot understand why books like this feel the need to define and enforce 'traditional' gender expectations before then breaking them. Why not just start at step two? They may not even be aware of the expectations if you don't HARP ON THEM SO MUCH. Also, for books like this that are trying to modern or 'woke' it's astounding how intensely binary they are.
Nov 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A nicely presented lesson-y book encouraging individuality. The first part of the book lists stereotypes and adds "except when they don't," to counter them. Second part switches to "you might like x and y" and that everyone gets to choose. Rhyming style and great lesson would make it a good group readaloud.
Bethany M. Edwards
EXCEPT WHEN THEY DON'T is a beautiful book that celebrates kids being themselves! It is a perfect way to talk about gender stereotyping in your classroom. The words rhyme and the illustrations are phenomenal.
Nov 02, 2019 rated it liked it
Always love media aimed at kids that subverts gender stereotypes. This is pretty surface level (the author's note acknowledges non-binary kids but the story doesn't), but definitely an important issue.
Splendid. Wonderful. Wish I’d had something like this book when I was a kid.

My only gripe is that it still spends a lot of time stating the obvious gender stereotypes before it starts refuting them.

Stil, certainly a step in the right direction.
Jun 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Encouraging kids to be themselves, this powerful rhyming book breaks down gender stereotypes and builds kids up. Here's to celebrating unique individuals. Bravo!
Angie  Moore
Aug 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I loved this way more than I thought I would!
Amanda Harrison
Jul 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I love how this doesn't place anyone in a box. We can ALL like a lot of different things.
Megan Sanks
Aug 25, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: picture-books, gender
Wish this book included non-binary kids, too.
Jun 23, 2019 rated it liked it
An attempt at breaking down gender stereotypes, but I felt it wasn't strong enough and missed its mark.
Dec 30, 2019 marked it as blog-recs
Mentioned in a blog post and resource list at
Juliana Lee
Not a story with an arc, but a good rhyming book breaking gender stereotypes.
Oct 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed this celebration of the natural fluidity of childhood play.
Note: I received a signed copy of this book from the publisher at ALA Annual 2019.
May 24, 2019 rated it liked it
Cute book about defying gender stereotypes and telling everyone they can host tea parties or put earthworms on their head no matter their biological sex.
Alison N
Oct 28, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: picture-books, lgtbq
A sweet, simple and colorful blast against gender stereotypes.
Jul 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Super cute book about not having to conform to the traditional expectations of what girls and boys should wear and do. This book encourages readers to be whoever they are!
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