About the Holiday
To commemorate the Stonewall Riots, which took place in Manhattan on June 28, 1969 as a protest demanding the establishment of places where LGBTQ+ people could go and be open about their sexual orientation without fear of arrest, Brenda Howard instituted Gay Pride Week and the Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade in 1970. These events later inspired the New York City Pride March, which became a catalyst for the formation of similar parades and marches across the world. Pride Month was officially recognized in 1999 by President Bill Clinton. During the month of June the LGBTQ+ community celebrates diversity, cultural accomplishments and influence, and the strides that have been made politically and socially.
The month also highlights the need for renewed vigilance to protect hard-won rights while moving forward to ensure that the LGBTQ+ community achieves full equality and acceptance. Globally, activists work year-round to end abuses and advocate for laws and policies to protect all. Around the world, the rainbow flag, designed in 1978 by American artist, gay rights activist, and U.S. Army veteran Gilbert Baker, flies proudly over a variety of events, including parades, marches, concerts, book readings, parties, and workshops.
Sam Is My Sister
Written by Ashley Rhodes-Courter | Illustrated by MacKenzie Haley
All summer long, brothers Evan, Sam, and Finn “played with trains, climbed trees, and fished in the river behind Grandpa’s house.” They made a rocket from a cardboard box and shot into outer space. “‘Zoom! Zoom! Brothers to the moon!’ Evan cheered.” When they went to the library, they gathered all the books about space they could find and headed to the check-out desk. But on the way, Sam spied a “glittery book that had a long-haired princess on the cover.” He took it from the shelf and checked that one out too.
Outside the library, Evan wanted to know why Sam wanted “‘a girl book instead of a space book.'” Their mom said “‘Books are for everyone to enjoy,'” and Sam said that girls could go to space too, but Evan still didn’t understand why Sam wanted that book. Soon it was time to get haircuts before school began. Evan and Finn had their hair cut short, like dad’s, but Sam was happy with long hair. Mom and Dad said okay. Evan quietly asked Dad why Sam didn’t want to look like them anymore. Dad told him that was up to Sam. Evan did see how happy Sam looked.
On the first day of school, Sam asked to wear a dress instead of shorts. Evan protested, saying “‘Dresses are for girls…. Why do you want to dress all wrong?'” Sam answered, “‘I want to wear what I like.'” Instead of a dress, Mom brought Sam a hair bow to wear. Sam loved it. But at school some of the older kids made fun of Sam and tried to grab the bow. One boy asked why Sam was wearing it and another said “‘Boys don’t put stuff in their hair.'” Sam shouted back, “‘Well, I do!'” and went to sit under the climbing dome. Evan chased after Sam and suggested they play spaceship, but Sam didn’t want to.
“Mom and Dad started letting Sam wear dresses after school and on the weekends. … Evan had never seen Sam so happy.” One day while drawing, Evan asked Sam about wanting to look like a girl. Sam explained, “‘Because I am a girl…. On the inside.'” Evan still didn’t understand, so Sam explained that it was like trying to draw with the wrong hand. When Evan tried it, he grew frustrated and understood that it just didn’t feel right. He was glad he didn’t have to do that all the time.
That night Mom and Dad sat down with Evan, Sam, and Finn and said they had talked with some doctors and experts. They explained what they had learned about how even though called a boy at birth, Sam identified as a girl. “‘The word for that is transgender,'” Mom said. “‘Yes, that’s me!’ said Sam.” Dad affirmed Sam’s right to choose what was best for her, and Mom said their job was making sure Sam, Evan, and Finn were “‘happy and healthy.'”
Later, while the kids were playing, Evan asked if they’d still be able to do all the same things they had always done together, and Sam said, “‘of course!'” When Sam began wearing dresses to school, neither the boys nor the girls wanted to play with her. Evan stood up for Sam, telling the kids, “‘Hey, don’t talk like that to my sister!'” Sam was happy to hear Evan call her his sister. That night as the three watched the moon rise, Finn and Evan wondered if Sam would still want to come with them. “‘Princesses can go to the moon,’ Sam whispered back. ‘Yes they can,’ Evan said. ‘Zoom! Zoom! Family to the moon!'”
Back matter includes an Author’s Note about her own family, on whom the story is based. as well as resources for adults looking for more information on organizations that support the LGBTQ community.
In her sweet and thoughtful story, Ashley Rhodes-Courter offers validation and acceptance for transgender children and their families. Through realistic dialogue and Evan’s often pointed questions and observations, Rhodes-Courter invites siblings and other family members, friends, and readers to engage in thinking, discussing, and understanding the feelings and experiences of a transgender child. She also depicts the types of hurtful comments and ostracizing that transgender children experience at school and in their communities. Rhodes-Courter uses these occurrences, however, to also demonstrate how supportive siblings can stand up for their sister or brother. Sam’s family’s strong and loving acceptance is a highlight of the story. As Sam begins to show a preference for long hair, princess books, and dresses, Rhodes-Courter demonstrates the steps, through language and actions, that parents and other adults can take to affirm a child’s autonomy and ultimately build a happy and inclusive family with unbreakable bonds.
MacKenzie Haley’s expressive illustrations will draw readers in with her depictions of imaginative play and the consistency of the siblings’ relationship throughout the changes taking place for Sam and within the family. Portrayals of Evan’s confusion lead into welcome images of his conversations with Mom and/or Dad as well as his unstinting embrace of and support for his sister. Images of the courage that Sam and Evan display in responding to the playground taunts will tug at readers’ hearts, and the family’s unity is inspiring.
An uplifting and heartwarming story that resonates with understanding for transgender children and beautifully depicts the acceptance all children should receive from family and their community. Sam Is My Sister is a must for inclusive family bookshelves and for all school and public library collections.
Ages 4 – 7
Albert Whitman & Company, 2021 | ISBN 978-0807506516
Discover more about Ashley Rhodes-Courter and her books and her advocacy work on the behalf of children on her website.
To learn more about MacKenzie Haley, her books, and her art on her website.
Pride Month Activity
If you’re stuck on rainbows, you can make this mini rainbow to stick on your fridge or locker!
- 7 mini popsicle sticks
- Paint in red, orange, yellow, green, blue, Indigo, violet (ROYGBIV)
- Adhesive magnet
- A little bit of polyfill
- Paint brush
- Glue or hot glue gun
- Paint one popsicle stick in each color, let dry
- Glue the popsicle sticks together side by side in the ROYGBIV order, let dry
- Roll a bit of polyfill into a cloud shape and glue to the top of the row of popsicle sticks
- Attach the magnet to the back of the rainbow
You can find Sam Is My Sister at these booksellers
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million
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Picture Book Review