First they are affraid.
Curiosity forms friends.
Teaching and learning.
Margot Gets an Unexpected Visit takes the traditional picture book experience and transforms it by replacing illustrations with the author’s own nature photography from Quebec.
The story follows the chance meeting between the main character, Margot the Groundhog, and a young girl on vacation from Belgium. At first, both are scared of each other, and the photograph on page 9 of a scared groundhog will make children laugh out loud.
As Margot and her new human friend get to know each other, the reader learns more about groundhogs, as well as the other animals in Margot’s neighborhood. As a hair dresser, Margot shows off her best work through the hair dos of other animals – and I imagine that these photos are some of the author’s best work too.
Just as Margot explains the relationship between herself and other animals in the forest, so to does her human visitor educate Margot about human relationships. And here was the real gem for me. This little girl explains to Margot that some people have a mom and a dad, and others either have two moms or two dads, or sometimes they just have one mom or one dad.
This probably isn’t a revelation to people from Belgium or Quebec, but here in middle America, it’s rare to see such a casual inclusion of same-sex couples in children’s picture books. You hardly ever see reference to gay couples unless the picture book is expressly about gay couples. And here is the real power of the author’s casual inclusion.
For the reader, it’s presented as a simple matter-of-fact, neither something especially noteworthy nor something that could be excluded from an explanation of human pair-bonding. This book totally stands on it’s own as a fun, funny picture book that teaches kids about wildlife in Quebec. But it was the unobtrusive inclusion of same-sex relationships that makes this a great addition for the classroom. It’s one thing to write a picture book that teaches kids why they should embrace diversity, it’s something entirely different to see a picture book that just embraces LGTBQ, point-blank, without any justification or explanation. That’s real acceptance, and young readers may not notice it as something noticeable, but they will certainly feel it through the way that it’s presented.