Phoenix Gets Greater

Second Story. Oct. 2022. 24p. Tr $21.95. ISBN 9781772602531.
Gr 2-4–Vibrant colored drawings exude sweetness and joy when Phoenix, a baby covered in very fine hair, is born. His brother calls him “Fuzzy,” and as he grows up, Phoenix wraps himself in a pink blanket to practice shawl dancing and play with friends. The background hues of the illustrations become somber as Phoenix deals with bullies and starts to give up the things he loves. Phoenix finally reveals to his family he is gay. After this revelation, his mother explains how in “Anishinaabe culture there are Two Spirit people, Niizh Manidoowag, who have both girl and boy spirits” and the respect Niizh Manidoowag enjoy in their tribe. Safe in his family’s unconditional love and the knowledge there are other Niizh Manidoowag, Phoenix returns to the activities he loves. This is a valuable book with a charming narrative, and most of the illustrations radiate the love and acceptance Phoenix feels with his family. The discussion of Anishinaabe culture help set this story apart from similar ones, yet readers will yearn for more information on what it means for the community to accept Phoenix as gay—a term that seems to stamp or compartmentalize the identity far more than the Anishinaabe would—or even more about the Niizh Manidoowag to provide more depth to the story.
VERDICT This short and sweet memoir is a good general purchase.

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