There are so many reasons to love this magical and unique story, not least because it’s the first children’s book I have encountered which features a non-binary character using they/them/their pronouns.
From the moment they are born, little Miu-Lan is different to other children. Neither boy or girl, they are are a magical being able to shape shift at their will from one fantastical creature to another. Miu-Lan changes their appearance at will to reflect how they are feeling – one day they may soar through the skies with wings and feathers and the next have scales and a tail to swim through the ocean. Supported by their amazing mother who encourages them to be whoever they want whenever they want, Miu-Lan is happy.
This all changes on they day they go to school, with a tail of peacock feathers and coat of tiger stripes. Miu-Lan is extremely excited to make new friends but when they arrive no one understands them. Confused by their appearance the children want them to define if they are a boy or a girl because they don’t know where Miu-Lan fits in to the dynamic of the class. No one asks them to play and they go home feeling sad and alone.
Over the next few days Miu-Lan does everything they can to fit in, including dressing like a boy so that they will be included in the boys games – but even though this brings the other children closer to them it doesn’t make them happy because they are concealing who they really are.
Saddened by the knocked confidence she sees in her beautiful child, Miu-Lan’s mother encourages them to be their true selves – but how will this play out at school?
This is a beautifully written book and we love the mother’s reassuring and loving song which is repeated throughout. It teaches children to accept those who may be different to themselves and shows how it is always better to seek to understand rather than to undermine.
The illustrations are magical and have spawned lots of conversations about the different creatures Miu-Lan is able to embody and why they may choose them. Ivy particularly likes the tortoise shell and porcupine spines Miu-Lan grows when they want to be left alone (and has pretended to grow her own when she didn’t want to get her coat and shoes on to leave the house!).
Buy it now: https://amzn.to/2IGGNiM