Neither by Airlie Anderson

Neither by Airlie Anderson
Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Genre: Children’s (0 – 6 y.o.), LGBTQ, Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

In this colorful and touching story that celebrates what makes each of us unique, a little creature that’s not quite a bird and not quite a bunny–it’s “neither”–searches for a place to fit in.

In the Land of This and That, there are only two kinds: blue bunnies and yellow birds. But one day a funny green egg hatches, and a little creature that’s not quite a bird and not quite a bunny pops out. It’s neither!

Neither tries hard to fit in, but its bird legs aren’t good for jumping like the other bunnies, and its fluffy tail isn’t good for flapping like the other birds. It sets out to find a new home and discovers a very different place, one with endless colors and shapes and creatures of all kinds. But when a blue bunny and a yellow bird with some hidden differences of their own arrive, it’s up to Neither to decide if they are welcome in the Land of All.

This colorful, simple, and touching story promotes diversity and offers a valuable lesson to the youngest of audiences: it is our differences that unite us.

Some things in life need a little bit more explanation.

One of the biggest strengths of this picture book in my opinion was how open-ended the storyline was. While it was originally written to help explain people who are gender non-conforming to kids, the message in it could easily be used to talk about race, disability, or any other number of differences that little ones might notice in others. To paraphrase certain key elements in the plot, not everyone can be easily categorized into this box or that one.

From a storytelling perspective, I found my wishing that the narrator had spent more time explaining why the rabbits and birds had never thought to explore places beyond their homeland or even to wonder what they were like. There didn’t seem to be any barriers between their land and what lay beyond it, so I was a little surprised to learn that they knew nothing about the geography of the world they lived in other than the little piece of it they were born on. It would have been nice to be given some logical reason for them to be unaware of such things.

I loved the positive and hopeful ending. It fit the age group this tale was written for perfectly while still leaving space for more exploration for kids who had additional questions or who wanted to keep talking. It’s reassuring for little readers to know that there is a place in this world for everyone even if they feel out of place at the moment, so I was also pleased to see that idea included as well.

Neither was a good conversation starter.

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