When Aidan Became a Brother
written by Kyle Lukoff and illustrated by Kaylani Juanita
“That can’t be right, it says ‘When Aidan Became a Brother’ and that is a girl on the cover,” Z said.
“Boys can have hair like that,” L responded.
I knew that this was a potentially challenging book, but I also knew that was also why it was important to share. We were just starting a unit on genetics and identity, so the timing was perfect. The main character, Aidan, was identified as a girl at birth, but early on, he felt that something was wrong. You can read a more complete summary here. I honestly had no idea how my students might react.
What third graders said after we read the book:
It’s okay if you don’t feel this is your life. You can change it by doing something other people don’t think you can do.
This is your life, not somebody else’s -make your own choices
You can be different in different ways and you can think about yourself in different ways.
You can make mistakes (this was said in reference to Aidan’s parents as they apologized for making mistakes in their early years with Aidan) and learn from them.
Be brave if you feel like something is wrong, stay positive.
Even if you look like a girl or boy, it doesn’t mean you are.
My sister is a girl and she likes to play policeman and play with cars and that is okay too.
It was great to have these beginning conversations and I know that we will read more books that challenge stereotypes. Students are using “trans” and “transgender” as they question “sex-linked” traits and wondering how further research will impact our understanding, I was impressed they were so open and not judgey, as this gives me hope for the future. The book inspired talk of boy/girl clothes, toys, activities and other identities that we challenge. We realized we have stereotype busters in our midst. I am sharing this book widely at school. The teacher next door read it aloud and a student asked to copy down the title to send to her transgender cousin. A reminder that I especially took to heart is to mindful when speaking, particularly with expectant parents is to avoid gender identification. Add this book to your class library for all these reasons and more. The illustrations are gorgeous and do not miss the author and illustrator notes at the back. I am grateful to have picture books that open (or continue) important conversations.