A children’s picture book that incorporates lush visual storytelling with poetic language to tell the tale of a magical gender variant child who brings transformation and change to the world around them with the help of their mother’s love. This unique children’s book honors timeless fairy-tale themes while challenging gender, racial, and body stereotypes.
Kai Cheng Thom is a writer, performance artist, social worker, fierce trans femme and notorious liar who loves lipstick and superhero cartoons. A prolific essayist and poet, her work appears online in publications including BuzzFeed, xoJane, Everyday Feminism, and Autostraddle; and in print in Asian American Literary Review, Plenitude, and Matrix Magazine, among others. Her first collection of poetry, a place called No Homeland, will be published by Arsenal Pulp Press in Spring 2017. As a spoken word artist, she has appeared and featured at venues including Buddies in Bad Times Theatre and the Banff Centre for the Arts. She is also a mental health community worker and co-founder of the collective Monster Academy: Mental Health Skills for Montreal Youth. Kai Cheng lives in Montreal and Toronto, both of which were built on unceded Indigenous territory. Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars: A Dangerous Trans Girl’s Confabulous Memoir is her first novel.
Gentle and imaginative watercolor art accompanies a story about a shape-shifting child who is not just gender neutral, but seemingly species neutral. This child occupies a world of child-shaped children who don't understand the child who can generate peacock feathers at will. They also make fun of the child who doesn't adhere to a strict gender binary. Eventually all the other children accept the magical child because they love themselves -- it's that easy! -- and upon acceptance all the children become magical shapeshifters too.
While I appreciate a children's book that encourages gender fluidity and identity freedom, and uses the pronoun "they" to illustrate this, equating a gender-fluid child with a creature who is so special that they are a literal magic entity goes a little too far for me.
Easily one of the best books I’ve read in 2022 (so far). A main character who isn’t labeled by gender or even species is dealing with the problem of what to do when others see you as different. They have a supportive mother who let’s them know no matter what or where they are that she will always believe and be there for them. My heart is bursting love! Add to the mix that the main character handles this challenge on their own the way they see fit is such a good lesson to showcase to kids. Even having everyone talk about their feelings is shown. Can’t say enough good things about this book.
I love everything about this. Seeing a story with a nonbinary child depicted in such a way was the absolute thing I needed today, and I think it's something everyone needs. The illustrations are beautiful, and the magical little story about being nonbinary, being yourself, supporting your family, not bullying, how to take care of yourself if you are being bullied... it's so beautiful in its own right.
I love this book so much. I read it from the library, but I look forward to grabbing my own copy as soon as I can.
Favorite children's book of my whole collection. A non binary, shapeshifting child who wears their heart on their sleeve? Might as well have been written about me.
This book is central to my undergraduate capstone project on identity formation in children's literature. I've been so amazed by Kai Cheng Thom's poetry and performance, and I was so excited to see they had written a children's book -- just in time for my project.
As a child, I would have been so happy to see a character like this in one of my books -- a character who feels different, and who yearns to belong and be celebrated for being their whole self.
Paired with the beautiful illustrations by Wai-Yant Li and Kai Yun Ching, this is bound to be my go-to holiday present for all the kids and children's book lovers in my life.
This book is so wonderful in how it shows kids that it's okay to be who you are and that you don't have to conform to everyone else's idea of gender and gender roles. I love how she expresses her own story through this medium and it's great for children who are going through the same thing to see that they can be loved for who they are.
There is a pervasive transphobic logic that suggests that 'allowing' trans people to exist peacefully will allow others to claim they are '''''actually''''' animals and other ridiculous things. It's a false equivalency mess that I don't care to go into at this point. It was and is used a lot in conversations about trans people's right to pee in public restrooms.
This book wholeheartedly ignores that mess, and I've decided that if Thom wishes to use a character who can perform fantastical shapshifts as a metaphor for existing outside the box in many ways, that's cool with me.
I also enjoy how the narrative employs the same lullaby technique as other picture books (I'll Love You Forever comes to mind).
My main critique is of the cover art. I don't know if I would have bought this book if it hadn't been recommended to me. It just doesn't represent the content of the book; I thought it was a story about a transgender sea slug (which is fine, but the book is more complex than that).
This is just a very sweet book. For the adult me it was clearly about a gender fluid person, but for my 5 year old it was just a magical story, but one that obviously made him feel engaged and snuggly and loved for whoever he is and however he grows and changes, thinking nothing of a specific message about gender and sexuality and more about the idea that everyone is never "one thing" and no one ever fits into one box of identity. I appreciated how this book had many layers of meaning. And the pictures were adorable.
A lovely story about a non-binary child and a mothers unconditional love. A child learns it’s ok to be who they are and other children learn about acceptance of others. This is a picture book I read to my 3 year old grandson while visiting him. The illustrations are so lovely and the book has such a good message.
This book is absolutely beautiful with a strong message for everyone (not just children). When we finished it for the first time, my little dude gave me the biggest hug. It’s so important for our children to know that we love them no matter what.
In many ways, this is really a beautiful book. I don't see it having a lot of crowd appeal for children (it's too sappy for that), but there are definitely individual kids that would find it meaningful and affirming. I like how the child attempts all of the things children attempt when they're being bullied--and gets the same results. Trying to stand out, trying to fit in, and growing armor to try to protect yourself are all in vain. Moreover, the mother's responses are a great model for parents struggling with these issues. She doesn't make futile attempts to rescue her child or tell them that they're better than the bullies. She doesn't resort to platitudes. She simply reiterates that she loves and respects her child. In the end, that's all parents can do.
I do have a reservation, though. In general, the book does a really good job of staying true to real-life experience, but it gives that up at the end for a too-easy feel-good ending. I'm starting to feel like a broken record for putting this in so many reviews, but we don't do children any favors by giving them fantasy endings where everyone magically starts to accept the protagonist. That's not the reality children are living in. I will give the authors props for making sure Miu Lan was not accepted until they started just being themselves, regardless of the opinions of others. That is definitely how it works. But that triumph feels unearned, because it's so complete. When children learn to be unapologetically themselves, they can make friends and even avoid being bullied. But it simply doesn't happen that everyone becomes a convert and wants to play with them. As long as that's the happy ending we're giving, we're not meeting children's needs
From the Stars in the Sky to the Fish in the Sea is a children's picture book written by Kai Cheng Thom and illustrated by the team of Kai Yun Ching and Wai-Yant Li, which stars Miu Lan, and their quest to find their gender and identity.
June, at least in my part of the world is LGBT Pride Month, which I plan to read one children's book, which pertains to the subject everyday this month. Therefore, I thought that this book would be apropos for today.
Thom's text is rather simplistic and straightforward. It is a wonderful story about love and acceptance about a child who was born with both moon and sun in the sky and couldn't decide what they could be and told in a wonderful fairy-tale style. Ching-Li's illustrations are wonderfully done and represented the narrative extremely well.
The premise of the book is rather straightforward. It is a fantasy-inspired story of gender and identity. Miu Lan was born with both sun and moon in the sky and because of that they couldn't decide if they were a "girl or boy", "bird or fish," "cat or rabbit," "tree or star." Their identity shifts with the games they play and the time of day. Their mother constantly assures them of her love in a song repeated throughout. Of course, when Miu Lan goes to school, their classmates are not so accepting. Exclusion and mild bullying commence as Miu Lan tries to figure out how to fit in, but their mother continues to reassure them, and of course the story ends with full acceptance.
All in all, From the Stars in the Sky to the Fish in the Sea is a wonderfully written book about love and acceptance and may start a conversation about nonbinary gender identities.
I've checked this one out from my local library on more than one occasion in an attempt to determine how I feel about it. Ultimately, I've decided this book just confuses me and doesn't make me feel good. I'm gender diverse but this shape-shifting child is not something I can relate to at all and it seems too imaginative for the very literal-thinking preschoolers I know to get what this is meant to be about. I do appreciate the use of they/them pronouns throughout and that the mother loves her child regardless of who they "choose" to be that day, but I did not like that the book starts off by saying the baby couldn't "decide what to be" so they looked "very strange" as it kind of hurt my feelings. I also didn't like that the book states that a child pulled on the main character's feathers because they were jealous as that feels similar to the idea that boys pull pigtails because they "like" girls, which arguably normalizes abuse being a part of affection. In the end the main character teaches the other children "how to gallop like horses, climb like monkeys, and swim like fish" and all the children grow wings, tails, etc. I wanted to enjoy this one but I really could not and I would not recommend it, sadly.
I really enjoyed this beautiful book, with its dreamy illustrations and magical shapeshifting gender-expansive protagonist. My only issue with it, as a trans person myself who identified intensely with the protagonist, was that it felt like the book centered on the protagonist's experience of sadness and isolation much more than it seemed like the story needed. Obviously these are real and important experiences, and books that focus on uncomfortable emotions are extremely important for children, but it felt like the book wasn't actually trying to be centered on that element and that the intention was for it to be a piece of the story rather than the focal point, so having so many pages devoted to that piece felt off-balance. It just felt like the message of celebrating nonbinary/genderqueer/gender-expansive identity almost got overshadowed by the message of how cruel other people can be to you when you're "different", and I would have liked to see it lean the other way. I loved getting to know the protagonist and how they experienced themself, witnessing what inner resilience and external supports they had, and especially the illustrations which really brought the story alive.
I wanted to like this book, but it reads quite a lot like a passion project. It combines odd elements that make it hard to recommend for any age - the sung refrain is a common element in stories for younger children, whereas the length of the book and the school scenario suggest an older reader, as one example. The metaphor of magical creatures could have been much more effective in a shorter book where the message is more subtle; children respond well to symbolic stories, and this gives caregivers the opportunity to discuss and interpret together, which is a valuable part of early literacy. Rewriting it happening at a local park could have worked very well. Overall this book was a nice idea but it feels poorly researched for the target audience, which is also not well defined. This creates a somewhat tedious, complicated story. Not Quite Narwhal and Jamie Is Jamie would be good alternatives for families who want to explore non binary themes.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Breathtaking illustrations. Gorgeous words that sink deep beneath your skin. Stunningly beautiful messages.
Everyone needs to take the time to read this book - whether someone's reading out the words because their kids don't quite understand letters yet or you're making a cup of tea after work and settling in for the journey. Kids and teens and adults alike deserve to experience this and learn and grow and flourish from Kai Cheng Thom, Wai-Yant Li & Kai Yun Ching's creation.
I have no other words other than please pick up this picture book that is infinitely more complex and gentle and utterly whimsical than you could ever imagine. I promise you that you won't regret it.
I wanted to love this book. And I love the idea behind it. But, what got to me was when the child was called “strange” for not being a male or female. That seemed harsh, especially if a child reading this was struggling with their identity. Every child should feel beautiful and unique and I think the word “strange” left a bad connotation for people who don’t identify with a specific gender. I think it also told kids who were reading this book, who do identify as male or female, that it’s ok to call others “strange” and I don’t think that is the message the author was trying to convey. Maybe I’m over analyzing the word, but it just rubbed me the wrong way.