The book, Ben, the Boy Who Paints His Nails, tells us that:
Ben is a quiet boy.
He isn’t like the other boys in the village.
He doesn’t own an action figure.
He doesn’t like to take part in football.
He doesn’t want to play with trucks or cars.
One day, a sea serpent arrives at their village and takes away all the color, telling the people that they can only regain the various hues of their world when someone is found who does not see things in black and white. Ben, however, remains in color, and must figure out how to save the town while also learning to express his true self.
It’s a fun, imaginative tale that breaks away from the very real-life scenarios of several other children’s books about gender-creative children, including Sparkle Boy, Jacob’s New Dress, and One of a Kind, Like Me/Único Como Yo. There’s a time and a place for reality, of course, but it’s also great to see other paradigms.
The book is being Kickstarted by a team of Australian university students, but, if they meet their funding goal, will be available to backers worldwide. They also have a big vision for an entire collection of books beyond this one, a “Be You Collection” that “aims to celebrate a plethora of diverse identities in today’s kids, showcasing the ones that normally wouldn’t be adequately represented in other picture books.”
Despite the story’s fantastical bent, it does have roots in writer Louis Hanson’s own experience, as he describes in “About a boy (who paints his nails),” which he wrote last year for SBS Online.
Watch the video from Hanson and illustrator Daisy Squires below, or learn more on their Kickstarter page.