Nate loves aliens and he really wants to wear an alien costume for Purim, but his friends are all dressing as superheroes and he wants to fit in. What will he do? With the help of his two dads he makes a surprising decision.
Look on any bookseller’s website and you’ll find a long list of books about children with same-sex parents. Some attempt to explain how children were conceived or adopted, and others reassure children that having a family that’s different is okay. As a gay parent, I’m glad to see this list, but the books I buy my 4-year-old are not about having same-sex parents, or adult relationships, or political correctness. Instead, they’re about kids doing kid things and thinking kid thoughts while their two moms or two dads pop up here and there, as parents are inclined to do from time to time. One of the nice things about kids’ books is that they build self-confidence by normalizing children’s experiences. Just as children with heterosexual parents read books that mirror their families without making the parents’ relationship the focus of the book, children of same-sex parents benefit from reading books that feature families like theirs. But, of course, kids’ favorite books are centered on a topic that toddlers care about almost exclusively: themselves!
Here’s a secret that isn’t taught in school: Everyone has a superpower. It might be drawing monsters or kindness to strangers or the ability to read an unusual number of books. Nate’s power is that he feels like an alien. He’s the only boy in his class with two fathers, Daddy and Abba. All the boys in Nate’s Hebrew school class are dressing up as superheroes for Purim, but Nate really wants a green costume with antennae. (Comic-book fans would, of course, suggest that he dress as the Martian Manhunter.) ‘Sometimes showing who you really are makes you stronger, ‘ Abba says, ‘even if you’re different from other people.’ Nate’s secret power gives him unusual creativity, and his solution wins him an award for most original costume. Byrne’s illustrations make the ending especially satisfying, with half-a-dozen young superheroes standing around in tennis shoes. (Longtime superhero fans, however, will feel old when they see Wolverine in a picture book.) A generation from now, this book may feel hopelessly outdated: A moral about tolerance and being yourself may seem painfully obvious. Many will view this as a sign of progress. If that happens, it will be because of the work of heroes like Nate.