What Riley Wore is another book about being a gender-fluid/non-gender conforming child. With the neutral name of Riley and with neutral images (you see Riley’s bottom, but nothing that shows gender) we see Riley in their daily routine. And we see them as they have a busy week with their family, friends and even during their alone time. Elana K. Arnold’s text and Linda Davick’s illustrations create a modern story about being yourself, doing what fits the occasion and not worrying about expectations of others.
And for me, perhaps a little too modern. Riley is shy on Monday, so they wear a bunny suit to school. Which is a little too much for my literal brain to handle. Perhaps this exaggeration is just that, an exaggeration to show that Riley can wear whatever whenever they feel like it; but talk about distracting clothing at school….
And while the text is obvious and there is little room for interpretation, Arnold does not seem to have any degrees for child development or psychology. This is refreshing. She is just writing a story. There is little to nothing academic about the book. It is just a kid having a good time. The end.
The illustrations are a colorful combination of lines, shapes and patterns. Obviously realistic in the fact that you know that is a child, that is a chair, that is a wall, they are cartoonish and simplistic. They are in your face, popping with color and leap off the page. Some of the children from school are repeated on other pages, which is a nice tie-in to the story (it is a community). The happy feeling of the text comes to life with Davick’s art.