Reading The Rainbow is an original regular feature at Musings From Neville’s Navel. I’m a queer bookworm who loves to geek out about books and LGBTQ+ topics, so why not talk about both subjects at once?! Basically, I review books with queer characters and/or themes, discuss the pros and cons of each, and tell you which stories are worth your time!
Author: Gayle E. Pitman and Krystina Litten
Genre: Picture book, nonfiction
Length: 32 pages
Published by: Magination Press
Date of publication: 2014
In a wildly whimsical, validating, and exuberant reflection of the LGBT community, This Day In June welcomes readers to experience a pride celebration and share in a day when we are all united.
Previous Reading The Rainbow posts may be found here.
So I don’t think I’ll end up publishing as many RTR posts as I originally meant to… I wanted to post, like, ten or maybe even fifteen of them. But there are a lot of other posts I want to write this month – and besides, I’ve published a LOT of bookish posts this month, either on their own or as part of RTR.
So the maximum number of RTR posts that will be published after this one is… three? Maybe four? I don’t know. I’m still figuring that out. And if I don’t manage to publish any more this month, then you’ll DEFINITELY see them in upcoming months! (Of course!)
ANYWAY. I just wanted to get that little announcement out of the way. Now let’s move on to the actual review! I read This Day in June this afternoon and am writing the review while the book is still fresh in my mind! Because I’m awesome and smart that way.
I love picture books, OK? They’re so cute! And really quick reads, too – like the literary equivalent of a snack, or something. So I was pretty excited, in that Engie-is-secretly-five-at-heart way, to read This Day in June. And I… mostly enjoyed it? It was fun, but there were a few things that didn’t entirely make sense.
But I’ll talk about the good things first. Like the illustrations! They were ADORABLE. I reviewed another LGBTQ+ picture book – I Am Jazz by Jazz Jennings and Jessica Herthel – earlier this month, and I have to say that this book definitely had better art.
…ugh, that came out wrong. I’m not trying to insult I Am Jazz, but… it was colorful, just not AS colorful and AS vibrant as This Day in June? The colors in I Am Jazz were rather restrained, whereas the pages of This Day in June look as if a box of crayons threw up on them. IT’S GREAT. And all the characters look so cartoon-y and adorable! OMG.
(Also, I’m so glad that the illustrations depicted – among others – crossdressers and trans people and butch lesbians. I’m glad the author/illustrator didn’t ignore them, since there’s so much contempt for them IRL. I’m glad the illustrations weren’t watered down to, “Here are a bunch of queer people who blend right in with straight people.”)
Now what about the actual story? This Day in June is comprised of rhyming couplets such as, “Rainbow arches / Joyful marches.” THAT’S IT. That’s literally the entire first section of the book.
…that’s right! This book, this PICTURE BOOK, has multiple sections! The first is short and sweet: Poetry and ridiculously colorful illustrations. The second section expands upon the first story by offering a paragraph or so of further information about each verse. For example, “This day in June / Parade starts soon!” is followed by a description of the Stonewall riots – the origin of the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement.
This was fascinating, and yet… this is also my biggest problem with the book? Because the first third of the book – the cute little story – is clearly written for VERY young children. Children who either can’t yet read, or who have just learned. The vocabulary is simple and the sentences are short and that’s GREAT for wee bookworms.
But the information in the second section is definitely NOT written at a level those children could understand. The paragraphs are pretty long, and I just feel like it’d be too much for a four- or five- or six-year old kid to handle.
And even if a parent read aloud those sections… look, I’m ALL for making sure that little kids don’t grow up ignorant of the existence of LGBTQ+ people, but I also think that little kids aren’t going to be interested in the the information found in the second section?
Now, maybe once those kids are ten or eleven or twelve years old, they’d appreciate those paragraphs of information about LGBTQ+ history, culture, and terminology. But would they appreciate the cute story preceding it, or would they roll their eyes? I feel like there’s a… disconnect? between the story part and the history part. Each section stands alone just fine, but I don’t think that the two of them mesh together particularly well.
I guess I appreciate the author’s INTENT? But it does seem weird to me that the first part of the book is written SO simply (and clearly for very very young children), while the second part is an INTENSE INFODUMP.
Oh, well. There’s still one more section I haven’t talked about! It’s my favorite, too. The last third of This Day in June is a “Note to Parents and Caregivers” and it’s all about how and why to talk to children about LGBTQ+ stuff:
“While most parents in same-sex relationships are used to fielding questions about their families, many heterosexual parents don’t talk to their children at all about sexual orientation or gender identity…. It’s important for all parents to talk with their kids about sexual orientation and gender variance for a variety of reasons.”
The author lists a bunch of reasons for parents to be proactive in discussing these topics: It combats ignorance, conveys that you respect and are comfortable with LGBTQ+ people, paves the way for a smoother coming-out experience if your child is queer, et cetera.
And then there are three lists, one for each age group – three to five, six to twelve, and thirteen to eighteen. Here are my favorite (paraphrased) pieces of advice from each list:
- Three to five: Conversations about sexual orientation =/= sexually explicit conversations. It’s about who you love; don’t be weird and sexualize it. (When you were five years old and heterosexual, was everything about SEX SEX SEX? Of course not.)
- Six to twelve: If you don’t know the answer to a question about LGBTQ+ stuff, don’t ignore it – look it up! Learn something along with your kid.
- Thirteen to eighteen: It is easier for your child to come out if you have been talking with them about LGBTQ+ topics from an EARLY age.
I looooooooved this part of the book! The author has a very confident, no-nonsense attitude when it comes to helping parents/adults in general explain this stuff to kids and teens. It’s NOT hard to talk about these topics, but it seems as if many people don’t know where to start, or what to say.
This Day in June is a good solution to this problem.
I would recommend this book to…
- Tiny cute LGBTQ+ kids
- Weird people like me who sit cross-legged on the floor of the children’s section in the library, paging through all the picture books and squeeing at particularly adorable illustrations and waving to small children who stare curiously at them
My final verdict on This Day in June? I liked it, but… I wanted to like it MORE. It’s a fun, colorful explanation of Pride geared towards young children, and I loved the inclusion of a section about explaining these concepts to kids – but I do feel that the first two sections didn’t flow together as nicely as the author evidently desired. So. I don’t know. It was cute, but honestly? I appreciated the sections for parents more than the section for kids.
This Day in June felt like it was intended for the parents, rather than tiny cute children. Which isn’t BAD, not necessarily, but it is… a bit weird. (I don’t think I’ve ever reada picture book like that before?) Basically, I WOULD recommend this book, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if you enjoyed the sections for grown-ups more than the sections for kids.