Daphne Dawn Reccomends: Introducing Teddy

Introducing Teddy: A Gentle Story about Gender and Friendship by Jess Walton and Dougal McPhearson

Introducing Teddy is a story about a teddy bear’s desire to express herself as a gender different than the one her owner originally gave her. She starts with the name Thomas and a male identity.  One day the toy decides to confess to her owner/best friend that she really feels like a girl, and wants to go by the name Tilly. The bear also decides that her bow tie should be a hair bow. The boy is a true friend, loving the bear and wanting her to be happy. The boy calls a human girl to come play, and informs her that the bear will now go by “Tilly.” Again, it’s no big deal, and everyone plays together happily.

It was a bit confusing that the bear wasn’t named Teddy, as I
thought the title implied. The boy even refers to the bear as “Teddy” once. But there are too many good, “gentle” points made in this book to dismiss it for something so small. There is true love and friendship here. The bear expresses hesitation in sharing her gender feelings, fear of desertion over her true self. The boy shows his unconditional acceptance, something every child wants of those they depend on, and goes even further to support her by introducing the bear to others without pause. The girl, boy, and girl teddy play and have fun. Then at the end, the girl introduces a new friend, making their safe community even larger.

The pictures are very simple and charming. My daughter and I particularly loved the picture of the boy’s minimalist “tree house” and the girl friend swinging in the park without her bow, hair flying free. I first checked this book out of our local library when a planning a visit from a transitioning friend. I knew the kids might need help understanding her journey, and decided to be proactive in bringing up the subject, rather than get an embarrassing question in front of my friend. The book is appropriate for preschoolers. My kids were kindergarten, 1st and 4th graders, so I used the book as a springboard for a short discussion. When my friend visited, the kids knew what to expect and were able to address her respectfully.

Although I strongly suggest that using the words “my teddy” instead of “Teddy” would have made more sense in the conversation, I highly suggest it for a basic understanding of the issue for the very young, or a starting place for deeper exploration with older kids. Sweet and tender-hearted.

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