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Friday, March 1, 2024

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PEPITO HAS A DOLL review – a book worthy of its spot on the inclusive book shelf

Author: Jesús Canchola Sanchez
Illustrator: Armando Minjárez Monárrez
Publisher: BookBaby

Synopsis: Pepito loves his doll Lola. She’s his only friend. He takes her to school in secret
because his schoolmates will make fun of him. He’s shy. The other kids at school don’t play
with him. Every night he prays to find a friend at school. One day a new student arrives at
Pepito’s school, Miguel. (Book jacket)

Thoughts: PEPITO HAS A DOLL delves not only into the Gender vs Sexuality questions associated
with an LGBTQ+ child, but it tackles toxic masculinity and its engrained place in the Latinx
community, even amongst our strongest allies.

Pepito’s doll serves as a subtle nod to how Pepito sees his own self, as a caring individual
seeking friendship. His Abuela, full of love for her nieto, advises him to hide his attachment to
the doll he plays with for his own good. While current U.S. social awareness has highlighted
this mindset as antiquated, it’s a reminder that many households still struggle beyond the
deeply engrained toxic masculinity within Latinx households. So even though Pepito’s abuela
means well, the lesson she imparts confuses him, leaving him with the feeling that his own
personality should somehow be kept secret.

This regression is rectified with the introduction of a new student named Miguel. Miguel and
Pepito form a bond, so even that when Pepito feels comfortable introducing his empathetic
nature, it serves only as an additional layer to their friendship. In Miguel’s standing up to the
kids, we teach the young reader how such an act of strength can impact another child in a
positive way. Through the books colorful artistry, mixed with the purposeful, inclusive, addition
of a Spanish translation, young readers are able to experience a different scenario that may
play out in their own lives.

It is important to note that Pepito having a doll versus his giving Miguel a besito are not
necessarily intertwined experiences. As we progress towards more open discussion on the
gender spectrum we will see more personal experiences being shared, and some will defy
gender norms but not necessarily touch upon crushes. Both deserve equal representation in
children’s literature as both give credence to those kids experiencing it first hand.

Worth it? Yes, all books that allow children to see a reflection of how they feel, or their friends
may feel, allows for the humanization we need. This is especially important for BIPOC children
where representation in children’s books only accounts for 10% of mass production. Children’s
books entertain, teach and bring representation to the world of our future generations.
Pepito doesn’t just reflect the differences in gender, but how normal and happy they can be
when reflected in a like minded being. I love that I read PEPITO HAS A DOLL to my children and
their mind never wandered to why he had a doll, but why he feared the reaction of others. This
is the kind of representation children need to form empathetic views of a world that may not
fully be inclusive when they assume our roles. PEPITO HAS A DOLL has earned its spot on the
inclusive book shelf.

PEPITO HAS A DOLL is now available.

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