Playing Wicked is a lovely book that is creating a safe place for queer culture. However, it is also just a book about play and imagination. The theme of a non-traditional gender role is naturally presented. It is not preachy and there are layers. Alex R. Kahler’s main character, Dante, likes playing at being all types of characters. But sometimes he wants to be the wicked one. And not just any wicked character, but the wicked Queen. Dante is a typical kid who knows that sometimes you just need to be yourself. But he is worried that others might not understand. But when he finds the right playmate, he can be himself.
It is a simple story. You know that nothing bad is going to happen. You know that it all works out in the end. Ben Whitehouse has fun, sweet and boldly colorful images. The illustrations are there to compliment the text and to be a character itself. This is a nice book. It is not necessarily “cozy”, but it is comfortable. You can enjoy reading it a few times. It might even be your favorite of this year, but if it is not, that is okay. This picture book knows who they are, and they just want to share that if you wish to be its friend.
I liked this book. I did not love this book. But I feel comfortable recommending it most people. Ages five and up is probably the intended audience, but anyone can enjoy (even just by reading pictures). It is a nice book to have in a school or local library, but also can find a home in your own personal one.