Maya Newell, Charlotte Mars and Gus Skattebol-James
Allen $ Unwin, 2019
32pp., hbk.,. RRP $A24.99
It’s nearly time for Mardi Gras and wrestling-loving Gus wants to go as a wrestler, just like his heroes who are big and tough with really huge muscles. But his mums are uncomfortable with this, trying to help him understand that there are other ways to be strong. They don’t want him to think that muscles and being able to conquer others is the only way to be good, smart and popular. They try to persuade him to change his mind, and to perhaps be like sister Rory who is going as a dinosaur. However Gus tries to persuade Rory to change her mind and he starts to teach her all about wrestling… until Rory gets hurt and wrestling is banned. That night Gus has a dream and he learns that there is more than one way to be a wrestler…
While this story has a different family structure to the more conventional ones, which means that some of our students can actually see their own lives reflected in an age-appropriate story, it is not the overt theme of the story. Rather the focus is on how we can all be wrestlers in our own way, even if we never enter a ring!
The back story to this book is as intriguing as the story itself, From the website…
“Maya and Charlotte spent 8 years making a film about the experiences of children in same-sex attracted families, Gayby Baby. To get the film and its messages out there in the world, Maya and Charlotte did all kinds of funny things – they once crashed a TV talk show, another time they staked-out a morning news show to try and get on air, and one time they made a live video from a rollercoaster! Even when fighting for important issues, they always try to have fun. They also took the film, and a group of Gaybies, to share stories and discuss policy with our nation’s leaders at state and federal parliaments.
One of the kids they followed around for 3 years making Gayby Baby, is their co-author, Gus Skattebol-James. These days, Gus isn’t obsessed with wrestling, but he is a black belt in Aikido (a Japanese martial art) and is mad about skateboarding. Now that Gus is almost a grown up, he is finishing his HSC exams and next year he wants to travel the world. “
However, because the whole concept of gay relationships might be controversial in some school communities it is essential that having stories about members of the LBTQIA+ communities within the collection be addressed in the Collection Policy so that should there be challenges there is documentation that supports the decision. Those who need to address this can read The Censor’s Hat and The Tricky Topics Hat and follow the links to the Sample Collection Policy which offers wording that can be used.