Reviews /

Grandad’s Pride

Authored by Harry Woodgate
Illustrated by Harry Woodgate
Published by Andersen Press Ltd

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When Milly is in the attic of her Grandad’s house, looking for a sail for her pretend ship, she finds a rainbow flag. Grandad tells her about the Pride Parades he used to go to with Gramps, glorious parties, all around the world. He doesn’t think he’ll go to another. Milly likes the sound of a Pride Parade and wants to arrange one to celebrate the lovely diverse community of the little seaside town. The community work together to organise their own event – but will Gramps be able to take part?

This attractive picturebook is a follow up to Grandad’s Camper where we first met Milly’s Grandad and learned about Gramps who died before Milly was born but who is remembered with great love and affection. Many readers may have come to Grandad’s Pride having read the first book and that is certainly the ‘right way round’ but there’s nothing to stop a reader coming to this book first. All the information needed to understand who Milly, Grandad and Gramps are is present in the text – though you may need a little ‘detail detective’ sleuthing to find it all.

This is a very gentle story indeed – the only jeopardy is whether Grandad is going to feel up to attending the parade and, while I am against revealing spoilers in reviews, I don’t think many of us really believe that he won’t make it. The question, then, is whether there is enough story here to keep a young audience engaged. I’m not one hundred percent sure there is but I do think that the charm of the characters, the joyous, colourful illustrations and the pretty seaside setting will do that job.

When I was at school, a book like this, which centres a loving same sex relationship, would have been absolutely unthinkable. When Section 28 came along it would have been illegal for it to be shared in classrooms – so the fact that it seems so cheerful and unremarkable now shows what a journey we have come on in the last thirty years. While many children may have a gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or otherwise queered relative or friend somewhere in their extended family network, some adults may lack the confidence or vocabulary to talk about this. Grandad’s Pride, and Grandad’s Camper before it, normalise loving same sex relationships safely and gently.

Having shared this book with an adult, it might be easier for a child to talk about how uncle John and uncle Rahim love each other like mummy and daddy love each other or how Susan and Margaret live together as partners like granny and grandpa do. They are not ‘just good friends’ or an embarrassing secret – they are life partners with a loving connection. And, as we love, and as we are happy to celebrate that loving connection just as we did when Cousin Julia married her boyfriend Steve, we can see that it’s no big deal who people love – we can be happy for them.

Children playing ‘detail detective’ will find all sorts of fun in this book. The seaside setting reminds me a little of Exmouth, which hosts a fabulous annual Pride event of its own. There are toyshops to look at, a bakery full of delicious looking pastries, a library, a community garden and people having fun on the beach. The Pride Parade that Milly organises for her little seaside town looks like a great deal of fun. There are rainbow cupcakes, colourful banners, flower arrangements, music to dance to – even rainbow carrots. It’s inclusive event, a place to celebrate community and make new friends.

Alongside all the fun objects and activities to see, there’s also a lot of different people to spot, all telling a little story about community. We see gay men and women of all ages, races and body types. Allies from different faith communities, disabled people, people who seem to me to represent trans men and women – a wider diversity of LGBT identities than any other book of this type I have encountered. The adult reader will spot all of these but will be wise to let the child notice or not notice – this is not a book, I think, which wants to teach children about varieties of LGBTQ+ people – just to include and represent them. It will quickly become boring and off-putting if it’s made to be didactic.

I am very glad to live at a time when a book like this is not only published but readily found on the shelves of your local mainstream book shop. However, and I’m sure that Harry Woodgate would want to me say this, the fact that at the moment books which are inclusive of LGBT representation are available in shops does not mean that this has come without a fight from authors, illustrators and publishers and, moreover, doesn’t mean that the tide won’t turn.

While this is definitely a book for a younger child – ages four to seven perhaps – there are some interesting clues for an older child to follow. The pictures of younger Grandad with Gramps at Pride events in their younger days show joyful celebration of love and identity but include references to the LGBT support for the striking miners, to the AIDS crisis and to Christopher Street, home of the Stonewall Inn, and to the campaign for equality of marriage. A child is unlikely to notice or make sense of these references but they do give the book a rootedness or provenance in the struggle for recognition and equality. An older child, perhaps one reading Fight Back by A.M. Dassu, Jamie by L.D. Lapinski or Glitter Boy by Ian Eagleton might enjoy exploring this book as a side text – even if it’s a bit young for them.

Later, at Milly’s seaside Pride Parade, amongst banners saying, ‘Love Will Always Win’ and ‘Everyone Deserves a happy Ever After’, we see other banners saying ‘LGB with the T’ and ‘Protect Trans Kids’. This is a version of queer inclusivity which is most determinedly trans inclusive. With language around transgender identity being so much in the news and with trans identities so weaponised in the culture war, I, personally, am glad to see quiet and unremarkable inclusion and representation in this setting.

Pride is many things to many people. Grandad says,

“Pride is like a giant party where we celebrate the wonderful diversity of our communities, and share the message that everyone should be treated with equality and respect – no matter who they love or what gender they are.”

Pride is also a protest and, in its way, this book is the best sort of protest. It stands up and says, in a form a very young child can understand and enjoy, love is love, everyone is different, everyone is special – and that’s a very good thing.

Shortlisted for the Little Rebels Book Award 2024