Book review: Annie’s Plaid Shirt, by Stacy B. Davids, illustrated by Rachael Balsaitis

Davids Annies Plaid ShirtDavids, Stacy B. Annie’s Plaid Shirt. Illustrated by Rachael Balsaitis. Upswing Press, 2015. HC. 32p. $16.95. 978-0-692-51245-6.

Beginning with the cataloging and dedication pages where we see Annie getting her favorite shirt out of the laundry basket, she is never without it. She is an active school-aged child, fully confident in her ungirly self-expression. But then her mom succumbs to gender expectations when they are invited to Uncle Benny’s wedding. They go to the mall to get Annie’s brother Albert a new suit and Annie a dress. “Annie felt weird in dresses. She was happiest when she wore her plaid shirt. Why couldn’t her mom see that?” The story ends happily as Annie comes up with an ingenious solution.

Visually, the pages are uncluttered with lots of white space and just enough text. The watercolor illustrations by Rachael Balsaltis have a manga flavor that perfectly captures Annie’s put-upon face. The pictures show that Annie is oblivious to her diverse classmates’ gender conformity and disapproval. Her mom appears to be a single parent and perhaps multi-racial. On the final page, the photos show the author and the illustrator in their own favorite plaid shirts, and even the end papers are plaid.

This picture book affirms Annie’s right to nonconformity in gender expression. It does not suggest that she is LGB or T. It will appeal to all children and serve as a discussion starter about problem solving, social expectations and individuality.

Book trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sn1n84mz8XE

Reviewed by: Carolyn Caywood,
retired from Virginia Beach Public Library

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