I won’t even Google it and link to a bunch of things. I just ask you to take my word for it: there’s an ongoing discussion about characters of color in books, particularly in cases where their color is obscured (in some cases, even flatly misrepresented) on the covers of books. It’s a deep topic — not just about misrepresenting the contents of a book to lure in readers, but about many readers (like it or not) responding at a visceral level to characters and authors that are “like them,” and rejecting those who don’t seem to be so.
Enter the Honest Toddler blog (also active on Facebook and Twitter) which chronicles (in the first person) the day-to-day life of a three year old. Honest Toddler (HT) combines a toddler’s worldview with an adult vocabulary and succeeds perfectly. See, for example, Birthday Party, for an especially well-written and hilarious example of HT’s musings. My wife and I talk about HT all the time, who seems to be such a mirror image of our own boy. (Indeed, one person asked if we were behind the blog, so like Byron is this kid–I answered, “I wish!”)
HT (if I am not mistaken) is never described as a boy or a girl, and the first person serves him/her well in this regard (the author must have read Brooklyn Burning), but until now the avatar was this boy:
So both my wife and I immediately marveled at the cover of the book (which we can’t wait to read):
My wife and I had a little discussion about this — would we have been faithful followers of HT if we saw a child that was not so literally the “mirror image” of our kid? Obviously we want to say “yes,” but we’ll never know. Not that we would have said, “forget this, it’s about a black girl,” but would have been more passive in following her exploits, feeling a bit more distance than we did with with the first kid? Time for a fearless self assessment. The socially correct answer is to roll my eyes and say “of COURSE I would have read it because it’s GOOD,” but the honest answer is, I just don’t know. I think I was hooked by the uncanny resemblance of the first avatar of HT to our own little monkey as much as the steady stream of hilarious “just like Byron” observances.
But of course, what’s great is to see such a well developed persona that is also mutable to either gender or any background. Nicely played, Honest Toddler. We know that however you are represented, you are the voice of honest toddlers everywhere.