This the tagline of our themed projects, the first of which is now in its call for submissions phase. But what do we mean by this? Let’s break it down:
We believe that children’s literature should reflect the world around us. Heroes can live with single parents, same-sex parents, grandparents, in foster care, in families of all skin colours, in multicultural families, in families with strong religious practices (regardless of their own religion) – as well as the “classic” children’s book family of two white adults, and 2.4 kids.
Heroes can be in wheelchairs, on crutches, need a guide dog, be somewhere on the autism spectrum, have anxiety and panic attacks, have a chronic disease, dyslexia or other challenges that real-life kids struggle with and overcome every day.
We believe in girls wearing overalls and tool-belts, and boys wearing tutus and thimbles. We believe that gender identity is complicated, non-binary, and not important for your level of heroism.
Shouldn’t be plot:
But! Just as these aspects don’t define everything about a person in real life, neither should they in children’s books. Far too many diverse children’s books centre around the diversity. Some of these are informational, and that’s great, but some forget that children are still children, even if something in their lives falls outside the box labelled “normal”.
We want to see heroes in wheelchairs fighting dragons, and children of same-sex parents going out and solving their own mysteries. Not a bad word from us about Heather has two Mommies, but we think it’s time for Heather to move on from drawing her family in playgroup, and go out into the world to have adventures with Gingersnap and Midnight.
And if a main character is in a wheelchair, we know that doesn’t mean that all they can contribute to the cause are two wheels and an aptitude for getting down hills quickly.
This is what life is supposed to be. Your body, family structure, identity, sexuality or gender shouldn’t define what life you lead, and neither should it decide whether or not you can find heroes to relate to. These things are backdrops; the real action is your own.
And those who are used to seeing themselves in every hero could probably do with a reminder: others are heroes too.