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Square by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen* is the follow up to last year's Triangle. Square spends his days finding square shaped rocks in his cave home and taking them outside where he stacks them. All that changes when Circle visits, decides his stacks of squares are art and commissions a portrait of herself.
On the one hand, Square is a very straightforward explanation of imposter syndrome. Square doesn't see himself as an artist. He's certainly not described that way before the visit by Circle. What his motivation is for removing the square shaped rocks from his cave aren't stated. For all I know, Square doesn't even know why he does it.
With Circle's commission along with the statement that he is both a genius and artist, Square does his best to meet Circle's demands. He wants to create a circular rock out of one of his square rocks. Anyone who has tried to do that freehand with scissors and paper knows how tricky making a perfect circle is.
Out of Square's failures — the bits and pieces of corners strewn around where he sat outside a circular pool of water collects, which Circle declares is the perfect and genius portrait she had hoped for.
But here's the thing that irks me: it's the gendering. Most often Klassen's characters are male. Even when dealing with things that aren't people or animals, they are gendered as male. Part of that is the quirk of the English language, that things default to male most of the time.
But I knew before I even read any of Circle's pages that she would be a she. Of course she would because she's curvy. Or whatever. Sure enough, out of nowhere comes an inexplicably female geometric shape.
Why? Can't there be male circles? Or would male circles be too effeminate? Would a male circle be read as gay? Or transgender? And would that reading — if it wasn't played for stereotypes – be bad thing?
* Counting book as number 52 for the 11th annual Canadian Challenge as the illustrator is Canadian.
Comment #1: Wednesday, June, 27, 2018 at 21:34:53
Interesting commentary — when you mention it, it seems so obvious — all the unnecessary gendering in children's books which is so prevalent. I think the circle=female is also something that would really bother me about this one too.
Comment #2: Saturday, June 30, 2018 at 16:14:00
It was just such a weird unnecessary and yet completely predictable detail.