When kids are at their newest, choosing books for them is so easy! You grab some Mo Willems, some Margaret Wise Brown, some Dr. Seuss. You work your way up to Sendak and Virginia Lee Burton because how could you possibly deprive them of knowing Where The Wild Things Are or the heartbreaking tragic dive that is The Little House? You cannot. And you make sure you did indeed Pat the Bunny, and obvs Duck! Rabbit! and Ferdinand and everything Shel Silverstein even so much as sneezed at, and the classics and your favorites. But what if your radical punk anarcha/separatist queer crunchy unicorn spirit wants to shine shine shine via reading materials for the smalls in your life? And it does — it wants to shine so hard. Well of course you’re gonna turn to zines and independent presses, as any good RPA/SQCUS would. Lucky for all of us, there are a bunch to choose from!
Below is just the tiniest list of four zines you might want to bring into your/your little responsibility’s purview. This isn’t comprehensive in the least, so if there’s a zine, magazine or book for shortie small tiny tot youngen peoples that you want us to talk about, email laneia [at] autostraddle [dot] com!
He, Her, Him: Free, Fer, Frim
by Adrian Prawns Sinclair, illustrated by Sylvie LS
This is the story of a firloy named Han Majazi and fer first day of elementary school. Page one lets kids know that a firloy is someone who isn’t a girl or a boy, and that their pronouns are free, fer and frim. Han’s caretaking adults are Tuck-Me-In-Pick-Me-Up and Scratchy-Face-Belly-Laugh — this made me super nostalgic for the time when Slade introduced me to a new friend at the park as his “other tall person, Laneia,” which is about as honest an introduction as you could hope for from a 4 year-old. In He, Her, Him: Free, Fer, Frim, neither Tom nor Sarah wants to play with Han because free doesn’t replicate their ideas of rigid gender roles. Sarah is a real turd about it, sidenote. Tereese, Han’s top hatted faerie best friend, shows frim that free’s not the only firloy and even helps frim sing a little song (there’s an email address for requesting a free CD, so you can sing along, !!) and there’s a satisfying happy ending that I won’t spoil for you.
The illustrations are perfect and the writing presents Han and the idea of gender-neutrality as if it’s something as plain as the nose on your face, if you’d just look. Kids might crack up after hearing new words like frim and firloy, but they won’t be laughing at Han or fer story — it’s just that new words are novel things when you’re new, too. If your young human is a gender-neutral small thing looking for their own reflection in a book, this one would be such a good start. I wish there was a whole series! I wish there was a whole library/world.
How I Quit School, Issues 1-3
Julie’s got a lot of feelings, but the one we’re focused on in Issue 1 is the feeling that high school as an 8-hr workday plus overtime/homework is getting in the way of what’s supposed to be life, and sucking the creativity and drive right from her youthful heart and soul. If you’ve ever skimmed The Teenage Liberation Handbook or even just sat in a 3rd period American History class “learning” about the same fucking wars for the trillionth time while you nod your head and doodle and wonder what your city looks like at 10:30am on a weekday, the idea of unschooling will be one that hangs around in your brain for a while, like a tiny gnat of possible opportunity. Advocates are hella quick to give the disclaimer that unschooling isn’t for everyone, but Julie’s story of self-preservation and realization kind of is. I haven’t read Issues 2 and 3 yet and I’m anxious to see where this decision to quit school takes her.
How I Quit School Issue 1 is personal and honest: there’s frank talk of cutting, apathy and depression, but those themes aren’t the boat that takes you through Julie’s story; they’re part of the water. Your boat is Julie’s confidence and self-awareness, which could easily be scooped up and placed upon the waters of your very own young person’s life. Even if you aren’t interested in unschooling, in Issue 1 Julie represents (via you know, actually being Julie) a valiant stab at autonomy. I loved it.
biff, Issues 1-5
edited/written by Allie and Bill Donahue, with various contributors
biff is something of a classic, which is weird because it’s only a few years old. It’s also terribly hard to find! But don’t let that stop you from trying. Bill is Allie’s dad, and Allie his daughter, and Biff was the name of their beloved kickass dog who passed away in 1992, and these two truth-seekers live in Portland (STOP ROLLING YOUR EYES RIGHT NOW) and here’s the thing: this is what can happen when an older person participates in a project with a younger person — almost ANY project. Knowledge is passed along, strategies are shared, values learned. Everyone learns and grows from each other. It’s synergy. It’s everything you want the game of Clue on Saturday night to be. It’s connecting. It’s the thing you hold onto and sit with as long as you can, actually.
Allie is the kind of person I would’ve wanted to (and still want to?) be/be best friends with: funny, cool parents, doing weirdo interesting things I’d never considered. In Issue 2, Allie sends an invite to George W. Bush to come with her to Eagle Creek (in a white limo) so he can see the effects of a dam that was preventing salmon from reaching their spawning destination. Issue 5 discusses religion and death, and finds the editors exploring various places of worship within 432 paces of their home.
In the past few weeks, at church, I’d seen a whole new culture. I’d visited a new world. it’s funny how close we can be to another culture and know nothing of it. But I’d made the trip now. And I’d come home to the bikey, wordy life that is my own. I’d come because—well, these churches didn’t feel right for me. There was too much praising without question or thought. but I’d seen the churches. I’d appreciated them, and they were beautiful: full of song and wonder at this amazing world that surrounds us.
– excerpt from Mt. Nebo Church of god in Christ, 432 paces, by Allie
There are also tons of random top 10 lists, which I feel you’re probably a fan of.
Wild Children: A Zine For Kids Age 0-18
edited by Glen Venezio, Peter Lamborn Wilson and Dave Mandl
Holy shit, ok — this is like if you could go back to 1987, take a cross-section of a bunch of kids’ brains — but the cross-sections represented what they actually thought and felt for real — and then magically turned those cross-sections into poems that you then put into a time capsule and didn’t open again until today. Or it’s like the episode of Buffy when everyone is in each other’s nightmares (S1E10 jsyk), but instead of the Scoobies, it’s YOU and your 6th grade classmates. And I’ll be honest, Wild Children sometimes either scares me or disappoints me, but it’s SO FASCINATING. Some poems are very extremely arguably not for the smaller smalls, but this zine feels important. It’s just kids telling their own truths, and I’m beyond compelled — almost obligated? — to listen. Maybe you don’t let your kids read this; maybe you let it take you back to some honesty you’d left in an intricately folded note somewhere, and maybe you use that honesty to help a younger person convey theirs. I mean, nothing here is revolutionary, but it is. Just get this book. It feels important.
(Dear reader, I do not know what the fuck I am doing. So please do not try to understand, OK? Thank you! If you know what you are doing that is too fucking bad! I don’t care.)
Today we are going to take a trip to bum-fuck egypt. Do you know where that is? It’s west of tim-buck-too, and north of hell.
– excerpt from Untitled by Christopher, age 14
Wild Children is also available from Alibris.
Did you make a zine when you were 8 years-old? Are you making one now? How do you feel about everything in the world ever?
laneia, i love it when you write about living with kids so much. thank you thank you thank you.
vanessa let’s make a pact that when we have kids (with other people) we will turn to laneia continually as our example of living with kids
p.s. laneia it’s cool if i order some of these for myself even though i am only a kid at heart, right?
I agree with this. If I’m ever a mom, Laneia is one of my role models.
i feel really good about this pact
and i think it’s cute that you clarified that we’re not gonna have kids together
like, HI RESPECTIVE PARTNERS DON’T WORRY WE ARE NOT PLOTTING TO LEAVE YOU
I wish my little human was old enough to understand zines! I can’t wait until I can get things like this for her. I am getting her to be a big Ferdinand fan though!
But honestly, maybe I’ll just get all of these for myself and then pass them on. Or hoard them selfishly.
Also, I love posts about kid things. I hope we do more of these.
Yay, more Autostraddlers with little humans! I guess I should read bio’s more often b/c I didn’t realize you had a small person.
Thanks! This is really cool stuff and gives me a little hope for when me and my wife will finally see a line ón that test.
Yes unschooling/homeschooling! Because school is so not the [only] place to get an education, and the more kids who discover other options, the better. I identify more strongly as a homeschooler than as a lesbian … (Can I say that? It doesn’t mean that I don’t love Autostraddle, I promise.)
i like this
Me too some days!
Love this. My little person is just 3yrs old so were still in the realm of The Gruffalo. I fucking love the gruffalo.
I also love articles about us and our little people. Nice one :)
OMG THE GRUFFALO.
do you do different voices and accents for all the animals and the gruffalo? bc that’s the best part, catjay. we haven’t watched the movie yet bc slade doesn’t want to believe that the gruffalo sounds like anything other than the way we make it sound. (he’s still not over the disappointment of hearing mo willems’ pigeon’s voice a few years ago.)
that’s hilarious!! i nearly made a comment originally about making all the different accents but thought maybe I was the only one!
Let’s be real for a second… story time can get a bit repetitive. I know I know, as Mum’s were expected to love and cherish such pleasures as reading our little darlings the bed time story but lets be completely honest…. it SOMETIMES is a little annoying reading them their fave book for the bajilionth time! so of COURSE I do the accents! the snake is a gangster from NYC, the owl is usually a highlander from Scotland. etc
She’s usually pissing herself laughing by the end… perhaps not the best method of getting her to sleep!!
my owl is an easily offended british gentleman, the snake is voldemort but with a lisp, fox is a young northeastern aristocrat, and the gruffalo is like a baritone version of sloth from the goonies.
it’s all very official.
I can tell a lot of planning has gone into your performance of The Gruffalo. Much respect to you fellow parent.
Also…”Slade”… thats a shit-tastic name right there. Standard.
this is all my favorite, you guys are making me so excited to be a parent one day (like 10 years from now but still)
Clearly I need to get the Gruffalo for my 3-year-old small person asap.
wild children looks like a thing i’d soooo love. even if i don’t have a tiny human. could i potentially read free/fer/frim to eli? i feel like my dog suffers from the patriarchal expectation that he not coordinate leather coats with me.
this was a super cool post and it makes me sort of wish i was a super cool parent. laneia, do your kids really call you by your first name? have they really been doing that since the age of 4? my mom would simply die.
I think maybe I would learn a lot from these zines so could someone come read them to me please
Should we probably make story time at camp a thing? Because I love being read to.
…I love reading to people. Small humans, big humans. Sometimes I read aloud to friends from the plaques at museums…
I love reading to people, so. Story time at camp! (If I ever get to come to another one, boo.)
omg I’m not going to camp but big people storytime pretty much changed my life so doitdoitdoitdooooit!
I think you should request a dramatic reading of the gruffalo from Laneia.
The first zine looks awesome and I’d love to buy it for my friend who is expecting (and who at first was extremely open minded and did not want to colour code her baby, until she found out that she’s having a girl, and now everything is pink). But since han is the male noun here in Sweden, I was very confused when reading the sample.
damn that is unfortunate. you could always use some white-out and give han a new name!
I didn’t even think of looking for children’s zines, but these are amazing! I love reading and gifting children’s books. The children’s book section is where I go to first in a bookstore. My favorite illustrator is Stephen Gammell, and you should defninitely look at his children’s picture books if you haven’t. Monster Mama, and How the Nobble was Finally Found, are some of my favorites.
I recently learned about Rainbow Rumpus from National Association for the Education of Young Children’s (NAEYC) LBGT interest forum. They have downloadable books for kids. From their website: “Rainbow Rumpus is the world‘s only online literary magazine for children and youth with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) parents. We provide a safe, fun, and empowering place for young people to create and enjoy art, break through isolation, build community, and take action to make the world a better place.”
This sounds really awesome. I think my 3-year-old daughter is just starting to realize that her family is different from most of her friends. She’ll sometimes just out of the blue say, “I have 2 moms!” like she’s realizing that this is an important fact worth stating. Thankfully we live in Brooklyn, so she’ll probably never be the only kid in her school with same-sex parents, but getting some books showing different types of families is probably a good idea.
These look really neat. When I clicked through to the buy links, though, I noticed that they’re being distributed by a name familiar and not for the best reasons – Microcosm. If you look at pages like this ( http://frances-lee.tumblr.com/post/26214117066/open-letter-to-microcosm ) you’ll see one reason why Microcosm is not the best place to get zines – in short, ex-owner and major contributor (and afaik still employee) was unrepentantly abusive to his ex-wife. I understand he’s publicly stepped away from both wings of Microcosm to improve their reputation but there are, hopefully, other places where these zines are being distributed and you might want to know to go elsewhere.
thank you for sharing this link. i’d left another comment but deleted it after reading more and more (and more) about the situation. i realized i felt uncomfortable having an opinion at all. i know that the people i’ve dealt with at (what used to be microcosm distro) pioneers press have been above and beyond great to me, but i have no idea what affiliation (if any?) these particular employees/members had with joe and i feel like i have no choice but to work with the knowledge that i personally have. i hope the people i’ve worked with never participated in abusive/deceptive behavior and if i learn that they have, i’ll stop using this press.
i’ve branched out to several other distros and i’m encouraging readers to share their favorites, if for no other reason than to have some diversity in these kinds of posts. please let me know of some distros that you support so i can check them out!
thanks again for sharing this info with me.
-Slade introduced me to a new friend at the park as his “other tall person, Laneia,”
As a fellow tall person, that’s the cutest thing I’ve read all day.
That is one of the best introductions, ever. The three year old I babysit is also pretty good at introductions–she tells people I am her ‘favorite juicy monster.’ Not sure how i got to be juicy but I am strangely okay with it, especially since I am her FAVORITE juicy monster.
These are so cool! My roommate and I have been talking about doing our own radial children’s books/stories.
I can’t wait to have a kiddo, free’s going to be the cutest hippie anarchist unschooled little monster there ever was.
I love reading about your kids because you treat them with a respect that I rarely see. They’re their own people, just in smaller packages. (Also, your synonyms for ‘children’ are wonderful.)
yes, this. A lot of people talk about respecting their kids/students but I rarely see it in practice. It’s really refreshing and inspiring to read about your relationship with your kids, Laneia!
also i feel like I am blowing up the comment thread with rambly posts that contain too many CAPITALIZED WORDS OF EXCITEMENT and I’m sorry you guys but I have alllll the children’s book feels!
So I may have been stockpiling awesome children’s books and zines (for my future classroom library, or so I tell myself) for the last several years and these are all AMAZING. I will have to check them out!
Some children’s picture books that are also pretty fucking awesome are Mooseltoe, 13 Words, and Z is for Moose. All the tall people I’ve shared them with seem to love them as much as the kiddos. And for the older kids (13+) there is Hello, Cruel World by Kate Bornstein and Shameless magazine (which I might write for so maybe I’m biased)
Jacinta Burnell also does these amazing coloring books about gender, pronouns and sexuality–Girls Will Be Boys Will Be Girls, Girls are not Chicks, and Sometimes the Spoon Runs Away With Another Spoon (my favorite!). People are always ‘borrowing’ my copy and not giving it back, so I suggest making copies/keeping a few extra around.
Eeeeeee this post just makes me so happy! Thank you so much Laneia!
and The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Expery! that shit is spot on!
i did not even know things like this existed and i love them all and also this
i know i feel so relieved, like i always thought maybe i’d write my own kids’ books when i had babies? and maybe i still will, but how amazing that all these people beat me to the bunch! i will have things to read my unborn kiddos! woohoo!
As a genderqueer mama of 1 and former unschooler, I really appreciate this list. Thank you!
YOU HAVE TO TELL ME EVERYTHING YOU KNOW/FEEL ABOUT UNSCHOOLING
Are you considering unschooling? I’m a former home-/un-schooler and know lots of others. Was terribly excited to see you mention the TLH!
sorta? i’m kind of always considering everything when it comes to parenting decisions, you know? i’d love to hear about your experiences if you want to share!
Thanks for this article. I really appreciate the positive reference to dropping out, as I spent most of my time in high school school looking for a way out.
love this article, thank you!!!!!
Wild Children sounds like exactly the thing I wanted as a teenager.