Gay dad Mark Loewen's children's book debut made a splash in the children's LGBT literature pool this year.
Titled, "What Does a Princess Really Look Like?" the book differentiates itself from most other LGBT picture books. Namely, the story doesn't explain, clarify or justify its gay characters (who are dads). The characters are just a natural part of the story - the new normal.
"What Does a Princess Really Look Like?" is the story of Chloe, a girl who loves princesses. As she sets out to craft an imaginary princess out of paper, yarn, and colored pencils, she becomes disillusioned with the importance of beauty. Chloe realizes that the power of a princess is not in how she looks to others, but in the change she can affect around her. More than looks, her princess values knowledge, bravery, strength, assertiveness, and kindness.
"In a way, Chloe's experience is the LGBT experience," explains Loewen, "but I didn't realize this until after I finished the book. I grew up very concerned about how others saw me. Then I found my own happiness when I learned to look past other's opinions of me, and appreciate who and how I was."
Another key element of the message in this book comes at the end of the story. Chloe's dads help her realize what a princess is not: perfect. "Being OK with being imperfect has been one the most freeing lessons I've learned. And I want my daughter to get this message early on. We should aim to be the best we can, but if we aim to be perfect, we'll surely fail."
Loewen's book tour started in Provincetown, MA, during Family Week, a weeklong gathering of LGBT families, organized by Family Equality Council and Colage. "I can't describe what it feels like when I read my book to children who have LGBT parents, and when I turn to the page that shows Chloe dancing with her two dads. Their eyes sparkle with excitement as they see themselves in the story," Loewen describes.
Loewen's book was named one of 20 LGBT Books for Preschoolers to High School Kids in a post by the parenting site scareymommy.com. It was included in the online review magazine, Children's Bookwatch. Midwest Book Review described the book as, "A unique, entertaining, and iconoclastic picture story from beginning to end."
Bestselling author Rachel Simmons (The Curse of the Good Girl) praised "What Does a Princess Really Look Like?" for "helping girls expand their definition of what a princess can truly be." Katherine Wintsch, founder of The Mom Complex, endorsed the book for delivering "the right message at the right time for the next generation of brave young women." The librarian ran website, www.bendybookworm.com, described the book as "the beginning of a new Manifesto of Beauty for young girls."
Finally, www.mombian.com, a website for lesbian mothers, speaks to the LGBT aspect of Loewen's book. "I love that this is an LGBTQ-inclusive children's book with a message, but that the message isn't about LGBTQ identity. Not that that's not an important topic—but we LGBTQ parents and our children have multifaceted identities, and sometimes we want books that speak to other parts of us, while still showing families that look like ours."
"What Does a Princess Really Look Like?" is available on Amazon, or anywhere books are sold.