Book review: When Aidan Became a Brother, by Kyle Lukoff and Kaylani Juanita

Lukoff, Kyle (author) and Kaylani Juanita (illus.). When Aidan Became a Brother. 2019. $18.95. 32p. HC. 978-1-62014-837-2.

Remember when I read It Feels Good to Be Yourself  and we all assumed I couldn’t possibly love a picture book more? We were wrong. In June, Lee & Low released When Aidan Became A Brother, a story about a transgender, biracial boy whose parents are expecting a baby – but I only recently got my hands on a copy. From the detailed digital illustrations to the tender, moving text, this has quickly become one of my favorite children’s books of 2019.

When Aidan was born, everyone thought he was a girl. His parents gave him a pretty name, a pink room, and frilly dresses. And even though he knew there were lots of different ways to be a girl, none of them felt right. While it takes everyone a little while to adjust, things look a lot better in Aidan’s life after he shares he’s really a different kind of boy – and then his parents announce they’re going to have another baby. Suddenly all the things that hurt Aidan are taking on new, scary meaning. What if the baby feels like Aidan did when he was little? But thanks to some gentle assurance from his parents – “you taught us how important it is to love someone for exactly who they are” – Aidan is soon ready to be the best big brother ever.

Kaylani Juanita’s digitally-rendered illustrations have the fresh, light feel of ink-and-watercolor – fans of Kate Beaton will recognize a similarity of style – and pair beautifully with Kyle Lukoff’s #ownvoices portrayal of a family working through a number of changes. Even in the midst of Aidan’s anxiety – when spreads become especially cluttered with Juanita’s bright, busy patterns – joy, love and affirmation shine through. And while we’ve certainly seen plenty of new-baby stories before, Lukoff and Juanita’s take is one-of-a-kind.

When Aidan Became A Brother will take you on an emotional roller coaster ride, but I promise it’s absolutely worth the price of admission. Highly recommended.

-Kate Frick, Darien Library


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