Why “Child” is gender fluid (in Tooth Fairy, You Have Some Explaining To Do)
Why did I make the character in my new children’s book gender fluid? I can probably answer this in five words; it’s what my heart wanted. But I’ll give you the longer version instead, for fun.
When I began writing Tooth Fairy, You have Some Explaining To Do, I gave a lot of thought to whether or not I wanted the child in my book to be a boy or a girl. In my first book, What Does the Tooth Fairy Do with Our Teeth? published in 2014, I chose a boy, simply because the tooth fairy was a girl. I liked the idea of having both a male and a female character, so as to be inclusive.
Because this new book is a bit of a sequel (both are about the tooth fairy, though in different contexts) I leaned towards using the same boy character again. But I wasn’t 100% comfortable with that. I couldn’t quite put my finger on why at first, but I remember thinking, “why do I have to choose?”.
So I waited it out, and as I drafted the manuscript I used “Child” as the name, where appropriate. I thought this would be temporary, and I’d replace it later when I got a better sense of what I wanted. I even thought about holding a contest through social media where I asked kids from around the country to pick a name. I thought it would be fun for them, and it would take the pressure off of me.
That’s when I realized that if I held a contest I would have to use the name the winner picked. Even if it was a fabulous name like John or Ava, Luciana or Miguel, Muhammad or Aanya — it didn’t matter. All of a sudden I knew that I had already picked the name, and no other name would do. And with that came the realization that Child was just that, a child.
I knew then that I didn’t want it to be a boy or a girl per se, but whatever the reader saw.
Alejandro Echavez, the illustrator of the book, did a fabulous job of creating a character with no obvious stereotypes for me. When I first saw his initial sketch I thought Child looked more feminine, but my family thought otherwise. So I directed it to my facebook community; “girl or “boy?” I asked. I literally prayed that at least three people would respond. I figured that would be enough to help me guide Alejandro on how to proceed. Instead, the post went viral and 16 thousand people responded!
I like to think that the Universe was giving me a big thumbs up on this one, especially since the marketing director at Mascot Books, the independent publisher I use, said it was a phenomenon that it went viral with so few shares. I know little to nothing about marketing, but I do know that children hold a special place in our hearts, and many of the comments reflected this.
I especially loved the comments that posed this question back to me; “Why does it matter if it’s a boy or a girl? It’s a child. It looks happy. That’s all that matters!”
My hope is that this book will serve several purposes. First and foremost that it be entertaining to parents and their children. As a parent I know how special and important it is to read to your kids. There are so many benefits!
Secondly, I hope my readers will feel a deep connection to Child, as do I. Connecting with someone or something is a form of falling in love, and we do it with our hearts.
If the heart wants to see a girl, it will. If the heart wants to see a boy, it will. If the heart wants only to see Child as a beautiful Being, that’s what it will see.
And last, but definitely not least, I hope that both parents and their children learn that if the Tooth Fairy doesn’t come one night as anticipated, it’s not because they did something wrong, it’s because even she makes mistakes.