A wonderful, tender children book

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The acceptance of gays and lesbians is greater than ever in North America. Thousands of gays and lesbians are raising children these days in the U.S. and Canada. Changing adoption laws allowing gays to adopt children will only increase the numbers of children being raised by gay and lesbian parents. Reflecting these changes, there is a small but growing body of children’s literature addressing this issue.

Canadian writer and illustrator Laurel Dykstra’s “Uncle Aiden,” a wonderful, tender book that teaches kids about gay people, is a welcome addition.

The central character in “Uncle Aiden” is Anna Maria Flannigan Cruz, a Latino girl who has 11 aunts, 9 uncles and 17 cousins. However, her favorite relative is Uncle Aiden, who happens to be gay. He has won Anna Maria’s heart by being attentive to her every need and want. He plays with her and “he never misses one of my school concerts,” explains Anna Maria.

“The best thing about him is he asks what I think and he listens to the answer,” she says. “He also introduces me to his boyfriends” and “we do things together like go to gay pride.” She is even teaching him Spanish.

Dykstra’s book dispels homophobic stereotypes of gay men as weak and prissy. For instance, Uncle Aiden loves to work on his motorcycle and play baseball. Addressing the rigid gender roles that are wrongly taught to children, Uncle Aiden tells Anna Maria “that girls can do anything boys can do.”

The book also emphasizes the importance of self-esteem and of being yourself. Uncle Aiden tells Anna Maria, “Don’t waste your time trying to be like everyone else,” and “not everyone is going to like you, what’s important is that you like you.”

Anna Maria concludes, “I wish everyone had an Uncle Aiden.”

Not only is “Uncle Aiden” well written but the book is also beautifully illustrated in bright, airy colors. Dykstra’s book is a valuable work that helps fight homophobia and promotes understanding. I hope we see more output from Dykstra in the future.

“Uncle Aiden” can be ordered at .

tpelzer @ shaw.ca

Uncle Aiden

By Laurel Dykstra

Baby Bloc Publishing, Vancouver, British Colombia

Softcover, 24 pp., $10.95