The Classroom Bookshelf
Inside The Classroom Bookshelf

Pride Puppy: Out and Proud

Pride Puppy
Written by Robin Stevenson
Illustrated by Julie McLaughlin
Published in May 2021 by Orca Books
ISBN: 978-1459824843

Grades PK – 5

Book Review
This ambrosial alphabet book is a festive feast for the eyes – just in time for Pride month, 2021! Pride Puppy is a perfect pairing of prismatic pictures and alliterative prose that tell the story of a family’s positively pleasing day at the Pride parade. Inclusive and welcoming of people from all walks of life, this book visually celebrates the intersectionality of LGBTQIA+ and other historically marginalized communities. Each page features images associated with a letter of the alphabet within the context of a satisfying story about what happens when a family brings their precocious puppy to the Pride parade. Children and adults alike will pore over the illustrations to find each of the items on the ABC “search and find” word list at the end of the book. With a multitude of messages about love, inclusivity, and equality, Pride Puppy will be a sure-fire staple in the growing collection of #OwnVoices LGBTQIA+ children’s literature.

Teaching Invitations

Note to our Readers: These ideas are not meant to be prescriptive. Choose one. Choose more. It’s up to you. Some ideas are bigger and will take a number of days to complete. Some are shorter. You can also choose to complete one part of a teaching idea, but not the whole thing. It’s up to you!

One-of-a-kind Alphabet Books. In addition to Pride Puppy, encourage students to examine other narrative alphabet books, including classics such as Animalia (Base, 1986) and The Z was Zapped (Van Allsburg, 1987). Also view the new Blue’s Clues & You! animated “ABC Song,” which highlights P for Pride. Then, invite students to use Pride Puppy or another ABC book as a mentor text for developing their own personalized, alliterative seek-and-find alphabet books. Students could apply the same narrative pattern that Stevenson employs in Pride Puppy in which the story begins at home, follows the characters on an adventure, and ends with the characters’ safe return home.

Proud Family Text Set. Read Pride Puppy as part of a text set about LGBTQIA+ families. Focus students’ reading on the ways families love and care for each other and their communities. As revealed through the narrative illustrations, the intergenerational family in Pride Puppy cares deeply for the safety of their beloved dog, the well-being of their young children, and for the cultivation and maintenance of positive relationships with others in the community. Include books such as When Aidan Became a Brother (Lukoff, 2019), Cuando Amamos Cantamos / When We Love Someone We Sing to Them (Martínez, 2018), From the Stars in the Sky to the Fish in the Sea (Thom, 2017), The Boy and The Bindi (Shraya, 2016), and Large Fears (Johnson, 2016).

Book Duet. Pair Pride Puppy with This Day in June (Pitman, 2014), which invites readers to the San Francisco Pride Parade. Look for similarities between these two outstanding books, including the joyful celebration of intergenerational families with young children, costumed dogs, music and dancing, signs and banners, and much more. Consult the Reading Guide at the end of This Day in June for background information about the varying elements of Pride parades in cities like San Francisco. Also see Pitman’s Note to Parents and Caregivers, which provides recommendations for age-appropriate ways to talk with young children about gender identity and sexual orientation.

History of Pride. In the U.S., Pride celebrations typically occur in June to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall riots, which heralded the beginning of the national gay liberation movement. Learn about the Stonewall riots and LGBTQIA+ civil rights activism with the many books, resources, and activities highlighted in the June 2019 Classroom Bookshelf entry for Stonewall: A Building. An Uprising. A Revolution (Sanders, 2019). For additional information, see Robin Stevenson’s (2020) title for grades 4 – 7, Pride: The Celebration and the Struggle. While at Stevenson’s website, also see her page of LGBTQ Resources.

Flag Study. In Pride Puppy, F is for feathers, flags, and fun. Read about the origin of the rainbow flag in the picturebook biography, Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and The Rainbow Flag (Sanders, 2018). Then, invite students to learn about the many different flags that are featured in Pride Puppy and represent the diversity of the queer community. See the recent Parents magazine article, “A Guide to the Different LGBTQIA+ Flags and Coloring Pages for Kids” for a brief introduction to each flag and for downloadable coloring sheets of each flag. To make flags with strips of construction paper, see the Drag Queen Story Hour how-to video on Queer Kid Stuff. As an extension, welcome children to create flags that honor something special about themselves.

Signs for Equality. The parade scenes featured in Pride Puppy are chock full of signs and slogans that advocate for love, inclusivity, and equality (e.g. “Trans rights are human rights,” The future is intersectional,” and “Love knows no gender”). Encourage students to work in teams to document all of the signs, slogans, and symbols they see in the illustrations. Then, engage in group inquiry projects to report on the meanings of each sign. After, invite students to develop additional signs and slogans to promote awareness, respect, and inclusivity of the queer community.

Pronouns and Gender Identity. In the illustrations of Pride Puppy, T is for they/them and B is for a button that honors they/them pronouns. Although using they/them pronouns might feel complicated for some adults, studies show that the affirmation and use of queer children’s pronouns is essential to their health and wellbeing. Because pronouns reflect people’s gender identities, it is important for students to understand the significance and nuances of varying gender identities. Fortunately, children’s author Maya Christina Gonzalez has created books and materials to support teachers and children in this essential work. Her picturebook book, Call Me Tree / Llamame arbol (2017), is completely free of gendered pronouns such that the child protagonist is simply a child and readers need not engage with the binary gender system. The book offers a springboard for discussing gender assumptions and pairs perfectly with GLSEN’s primary grade lesson plan, “That’s a (Gender) Stereotype!”.

Moreover, Gonzalez’s Gender Wheel curriculum, tools, and resources, including her latest picturebooks They, She, He, Me: Free to Be! (2017) and They, She, He Easy as ABC (2019), likewise offer direct support for approaching gender identity with children. Another helpful resource is Genderbread, a teaching tool “for breaking the big concept of gender down into bite-sized, digestible pieces.” Finally, fans of the classic Jacob’s New Dress (Hoffman, 2014) will be pleased for the newest book in the series, Jacob’s School Play: Starring He, She, and They (Hoffman, 2021). More resources are listed below.

Resources and Organizations:

The Trevor Project – Education 

The Human Rights Campaign – Creating Safe and Welcoming Schools

GLSEN Educator Resources

Learning for Justice: Best Practices for Serving LGBTQ Students

The Safe Zone Project – Resources for Educators

Gender Spectrum: Educators & Education Professionals

Pride and Less Prejudice: Fostering Inclusive Classrooms

Pop ‘n’ Olly: LGBTQ+ Equality ‘Edutainment’