Auntie Uncle: Drag Queen Hero, Ellie Royce and Hannah Chambers, Pow! Kids Books, 2020

From the Publisher: Told from the perspective of their adoring nephew, Auntie Uncle: Drag Queen Hero is the story of a courageous drag queen who saves the day, and brings two communities together.

The young narrator thinks it’s awesome that his uncle and his auntie are the same person. Uncle Leo is an accountant, and is great at helping with math homework. Auntie Lotta is a fabulous performer, and loves to sing and dance with her nephew. One day Lotta’s family comes to watch her perform at the local Pride parade. Suddenly, a dog breaks free of its leash and nearly causes a float-crash, but Lotta springs into action just in time to save the dog and the parade. The mayor wants to give her a medal for courage and to throw a big party for her and all her friends, but Lotta worries that her friends who only know him as “Leo” won’t get along with her fellow drag performers who know her as “Lotta.” With the help of their nephew they put together a fierce look that is both Leo and Lotta, the perfect ensemble for an Auntie Uncle. A sweet, uplifting story about fearlessly letting your true self shine.

Sometimes, the authors we love let us down. The worlds they create for us make us feel welcome and loved and seen. And then, in the real world, they behave in a way that shows us that those worlds really were only fiction.

What a cruel kind of magic that is.

And then a book comes along that shows us that sometimes the real world can be delightful.

That shows us how an author should behave.

It was such an utter joy to discover the book Auntie Uncle: Drag Queen Hero by Ellie Royce and Hannah Chambers.

I had noticed the book on social media and had been intending to order a copy. It was a delightful surprise to win one in a competition run by Ellie Royce. I awaited its arrival eagerly and, on the day it came, opened the package with excitement – only to have the book pilfered from under my nose by my book-loving daughter.

My kid devoured the book and promptly turned it over and read it again. Despite being a bookworm like her mum, unlike me she loves all things sparkle and showbiz. She was utterly won over by the titular Auntie Uncle at the centre of this book.

As (when I finally got my hands on it) was I.

According to her website, “Ellie truly believes in the power of stories to change the world for the better”, and this book is a small, brightly-coloured step on the road to that change. Ellie is a true ally, who says of this story, “Auntie Uncle is for everyone who needs the courage to be themselves, whoever that may be. You are seen. You are heard. You are precious.”

I have to admit to shedding more than a couple of tears, reading this lovely book. Just as Ellie is an ally to her trans friends and readers, the small boy in this book is an ally to his “Auntie Uncle” in the most beautiful way – he celebrates both facets of Auntie Lotta/Uncle Leo. This book does the same, showing us that the multitudes within us are what make us special, that nobody has to choose just one way to be, and that the person – or people – inherent in our soul is perfect just the way they are.

Illustrated vividly in colours that pop off the page, the theatricality of this book is a major part of its appeal, but the reason my daughter and I keep coming back to it is its pure, sweet heart. We love the joyful acceptance of the narrator. We love the nerdiness AND the melodrama of Auntie Uncle. We love that Leo/Lotta gets to be a hero, gets to be applauded, gets to be seen for who they want to be.

We love that the author, Ellie Royce, truly wants to make all readers welcome.

We are also desperately hoping to get a Drag Queen Story Time in Tasmania sometime soon.

I spent much of my younger life yearning to live in fantastical worlds.

Now, I think, I’d be much happier living in the world of this book. Fingers crossed, the real world can be more like this place, now and in the future.

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