Mel and Mo’s Marvelous Balancing Act by Nicola Winstanley and illustrated by Marianne Ferrer is a sort of play-it-safe children’s story about non-binary twins who argue nearly all their lives until the time arises that they share a problem they must come together to solve.
With a generally cute plot and good illustrations, I do see this as a fun children’s book. For a story whose summary describes the main characters as non-binary, however, I think that the author was reaching a bit far.
The only genderfluidity discussion that this book will bring about is that which the parents explain.
No pronouns are ever used throughout the course of the story and the illustrations, unfortunately, are more like to bring about the assumption that the two main characters are girl’s than anything else. Without the story’s summary, I wouldn’t have even known myself that this was the direction it was meant to go in. I think I would have just assumed it was a sister and a brother.
And I’m not saying that this is necessarily a bad thing, but I don’t think that the initial message was portrayed obviously enough. The majority of children are not going to pick up on it at all and the discussion that this book possibly has the opportunity to bring forth is one that will only be broached if that is the parents’ plan. You can’t really read this book and come away, with no outside support, knowing that the main characters are non-binary.
That said, it was a cute story overall.
I appreciated the characterization of the twins and the events that they were a part of. In general, this is a story about getting past differences and working together to make each other’s lives better. It had a good message and was fun to read. I do wish that the author had been a bit more blatant about the gender identities of the twins rather than leaving it up for the readers to determine from the synopsis. I feel like others would be less apt to assume gender by reading only the book itself.
I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.