Even though gender roles and norms have become less rigid in recent years, there is still a lot to be said for how much emotion the average Joe (or Matt or Eric or Justin) is “allowed” to show. Boys, although their wardrobe and occupational choices may have changed, are still largely relegated to keeping their tears and insecurities on lock down.
Keith Negley, a mixed media artist based in Bellingham, Washington, has created the perfect antidote to the societal pressure put on male kids to stifle their feelings with a fun, funky and not-altogether too serious or heavy-handed new book. Published earlier this month by Flying Eye Books (an imprint of London’s Nobrow), Tough Guys (Have Feelings Too) is sure to become a staple and should be on every kids shelf regardless of gender.
The pages are populated by a cast of traditionally “tough guys”– Luchadores, cowboys, leather clad and bandana wearing bikers, super heroes and ninjas– illustrated in contrasting and vivid primary colours. These are the types of dudes who aren’t supposed to show any inkling of weakness, and yet, in every spread, they are either on the verge of tears or sitting quietly with their thoughts– mourning a bad fight, a broken sword, a split second loss in a race, and even accidentally running over a squirrel.
The text is simple (“Everyone has feelings…and it’s okay to show them”), and features another, less celebrated hero on the final pages: the boy’s father reading to his son and connecting on an emotional level.
Parents and educators will love Tough Guys because it does what all good kids books with a message should: it shows without too much telling. It doesn’t talk down to kids or fill them up with ideas and theories that may be above some of them (although those kinds of books certainly have their time and place). It is simple, to the point and looks like something that they would pick up on their own.
I cannot recommend this book enough. Don’t be a tough guy– order copies of this remarkable title today.
Tough Guys (Have Feelings Too) by Keith Negley
Juvenile Fiction/ Social/ Emotion & Feelings
Flying Eye Books (Nobrow)
Available now from PGC/Raincoast