New Children's Book Features Non-Binary Lead Character

Thursday August 20, 2020

New Children's Book Features Non-Binary Lead Character

A new book by author Tina Tedesco-Vella embraces the evolution of our cultural definitions of gender identity.

In "Following the Footsteps," the children's book author alludes to relevant topics that children encounter in today's social media run world. The illustrated story follows a young non-binary child named Taylor as well as their mom, dad and two pet dogs, Charlie and Chester, as they go on a beach vacation. The book was inspired by the author's family holidays she had experienced, to be inclusive of all people, and her love of storytelling.

The family is enjoying their time at the beach when Taylor gets separated from them and other beachgoers and begins to panic. Although Taylor is afraid of being lost, being an only child, they are used to finding ways of entertainment independently. As a way of distracting from the situation at hand, Taylor notices the sea life and rock pools and begins creating an imaginary game. They take in the surrounding environment including the big ocean and they begin to listen to the waves. Listening to the ocean, Taylor breathes in and out to try and breathe with the sounds of the waves to help relax. The wind gets a hold of Taylor's hat and they chase it down the beach. At last, Taylor sees other beachgoers and feels a sense of relief. Ultimately, Taylor's parents spot Taylor and they are all reunited.

"During the COVID restrictions and spending more time at home, I started thinking about the fond memories our child has and thought of the beach holidays we went on. I pulled memories from us being on the beach and a photo I took of them following footsteps on the beach," said Tedesco-Vella. "It gave me a sense that they were following their own path in life. It made me think why do we have our children stick to a plan we give them instead of following their own path? Children can make their own choices, we guide them, but I like to think children should make their own decisions and create an environment with open communication."

In the book, the author demonstrates the importance of children going back to the basics. Today, children are bombarded with information from all sources and may have unlimited access to media. In "Following the Footsteps" the author showed how the main character, Taylor, could play with a simple thing and make it an adventure. Especially in the current state of the world, children can be anxious with everything going on and it is important for them to find something simple so they can destress from feeling overwhelmed and lost by going back to the simple things in life. Tedesco-Vella wanted to reflect non-binary persons by not giving the main character, Taylor, a gender and encourage readers to express their true selves.

While the issue of gender identity and LGBTQ representation still polarizes some communities, the publishing industry is making slow but steady strides. Last month, EDGE featured a story on five young adult books with queer characters and storylines.

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