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WHAT RILEY WORE by Elana K. Arnold


by Elana K. Arnold ; illustrated by Linda Davick

Pub Date: Aug. 27th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-4814-7260-9
Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Is Riley a girl or a boy? Riley decides to answer an entirely different question through the creative self-expression of their clothing.

Each day of the week, Riley invents a new outfit to wear to school, around the house, and to the park. The tan-skinned, dark-haired protagonist has clothing for every mood and occasion: a bunny suit for first-day-of-school shyness, “a superhero cape to the dentist’s because teeth cleaning is scary,” and a tutu, perfectly mismatched with a dinosaur hat, for the weekend. Instead of making Riley a target of bullies, the gender-fluid ensembles draw their classmates in. Heartwarmingly, Arnold and Davick depict the spectacularly nongendered protagonist in positive connection with the people around them. Children are at the center of this colorful story: Adults, when they appear, mostly line the periphery of Davick’s double-page–spread illustrations while classmates of various skin tones are featured in cheerful detail. In the growing landscape of children’s books that explore gender, this offering beautifully normalizes the multifaceted gender expressions people can have, demonstrates the support adults can provide to nonbinary children, and models how easily young ones can relate to one another without having to choose between two gender options. Though Riley’s gender identity is never explicitly stated in the narrative, Arnold and Davick’s entertaining tale speaks volumes about the creativity of nonbinary kids.

Riley’s courageous vulnerability is refreshing, fun, and worthy of celebration.

(Picture book. 3-9)