Title: Gaston
Author: Kelly DiPucchio
Illustrator: Christian Robinson
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Year of Publication: 2014

Most children will take the story at face value: a bulldog puppy (Gaston) accidentally ends up with a poodle family and, in spite of his efforts, doesn’t really fit in. From this standpoint, the book acts as a springboard for conversations about differences within families, and the idea that, ultimately, love makes a family.

Christian Robinson's illustrations are so eye-catching!
Christian Robinson’s illustrations are so eye-catching!

But wait, is there a deeper, darker side to the story? Well, stereotypes do play a prominent role. The bulldogs are portrayed as rough and tumble while the poodles are dainty and polite. There’s definitely some gender stereotyping going on. Also, I tend to lean toward a French accent when reading this book out loud.

At first the charm and simplicity of the story overpowered any of my concerns about stereotyping, especially since I’m pretty sure the author did not have any malicious intent. But perhaps that’s part of the issue? Upon further reflection, I started to think obsess about the importance of recognizing stereotypes when you see them.

It is critical to teach children this skill.

I’ll continue to sing the praises of this book, but my lessons centered on it will delve into the power of (intentional or unintentional) hidden messages.

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