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RILEY CAN'T STOP CRYING by Stéphanie Boulay


by Stéphanie Boulay ; illustrated by Agathe Bray-Bourret ; translated by Charles Simard

Pub Date: March 16th, 2021
ISBN: 978-1-4598-2638-0
Publisher: Orca

A family supports its youngest member.

Regina’s little brother, Riley, never stops crying. She and their dad try everything they can think of to cheer him up, but no matter what they do he slumps through the pages, blue tears waterfalling from his eyes. “We’d ask him, ‘Riley, why are you crying?’ / He’d answer, ‘Don’t know.’ ” Finally, after Riley draws a picture of himself and points to it, Regina realizes that “Riley is crying because he’s not happy being Riley.” Their dad—who is single—wonders if “such feelings were too complicated” for a young child, but Regina helps Riley pick out toys and clothes that make him happy. At the end, Riley’s mostly stopped crying, has a trendy new haircut, and sports genderfluid outfits, and the family (all of whom present White) is much happier. Bright, stilted, studiedly childlike watercolors illustrate each scene. One weakness in this meandering story is that it positions a gender-normative older sister as a savior to her disempowered, almost speechless gender-creative sibling. Another is that in trim size and page count it appears to be an early chapter book, but lengthy, convoluted sentences (“I get that I’m just a kid, but with everything I did know, even if it isn’t a whole lot, I thought I understood something about the things that are really important in life”) make this best suited to reading aloud.

A kind message clumsily delivered.

(Picture book. 6-8)