Book cover: Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dressby Christine Baldacchino
Groundwood Books, 2014
Grades PreK-3

Morris Micklewhite loves to imagine himself exploring outer space or visiting far off jungles with elephants and tigers.

Morris also loves to wear the tangerine dress and heels in the dress-up area of his classroom.

Morris loves the swishing sound the dress makes as he moves, and the crisp clicking of heels as he walks across the floor. Morris loves the color of the dress, which reminds him of a tiger, but the children in his class say that boys can’t wear dresses.

His classmates won’t allow him to play with them anymore, and the boys won’t sit with him at lunch because they think he will turn them into girls.

Morris doesn’t understand why something that makes him so happy is making other people be so mean.

He doesn’t try to play with the other children anymore, but instead he creates a fantastical scene in outer space, with elephants and tigers. When the boys see the fun Morris is having, they decide that having a good explorer for a friend is far more important than worrying about what he is wearing.

Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress is a simple and straightforward picture book.

While it doesn’t focus overly long on the pressures of gender identity or bullying, it does make a strong statement about the resilience of children and their ability to open their minds to new ideas.

And the ending reinforces for children that instead of conforming to what others say you should be/look/act, you should focus on being 100% comfortable with who you are, and others will see your confidence.

This story can serve as a springboard for exploring how we let gender “boxes” dictate what we feel is and isn’t “normal” in our culture, and how we can be more compassionate and accepting of others’ differences.