The GayBCs, as the title suggests, follows a traditional alphabet book format. However, in this unique (and not so traditional) ABC book, debut author and illustrator M. L. Webb imparts tidbits of information, from A to Z, about LGBTQ+ vocabulary. An important concept indeed, with good intentions, but executed in a manner with mixed results.
A number of wonderful and useful terms are packed into this playful book, each presented in rhyme with a poetic flair. Curious readers will learn that “A is for ALLY. A friend who is there/to stand up for you/with strength, love, and care.” “C is for COMING OUT. You’re ready to share/what you feel deep inside;/it’s okay to be scared.” “Q is for QUEER. An inclusive term./ It’s used to show pride,/unite, and affirm!”
Webb gently introduces the young reader (ages 4–8) to big ideas, many of which are likely to be heard for the first time, and sure to inspire novel conversations between children and their parents. B is for BI. D is for DRAG. I is for INTERSEX. K is for KIKI. O is for ORIENTATION. The problem is that the explanation of some of these ideas does not offer much clarity to the child reader, especially when not-so-child-friendly terms are used: “T is for TRANS. It’s a brave step to take/to live as the gender/you know is innate.”
In addition to some of the terminology used, a few other distractions make reading through The GayBCs somewhat challenging. Some of the rhyming feels forced and awkward: “P is for PAN. You connect with a vibe./No matter the gender/it’s about what’s inside.” Furthermore, several of the illustrations (each depicting friends on a playdate) simply do not match the text or do the job of more fully telling the story through images. In fact, at times the illustrations present a disconnection from the text that is confusing.
And while words like FAMILY, HOPE, JOY, UNIQUE, and WONDER are universally appealing, in a book intending to offer information about LGBTQ+ vocabulary, there is not much value add here except to point out that these are things that touch all lives including queer ones.
In The GayBCs Webb is beginning a dialogue with children about complex and difficult subjects (e.g., EQUALITY, GAY, NON-BINARY, X). And he’s having fun, too (e.g., SASHAY, VOGUE)! The glossary at the end of the book helps further define all of the terms. Together these A to Z words achieve a message of inclusiveness and support of one another. The overall presentation, however, is less than satisfying.