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Inky Blog Book of the Month: Timid by Harry Woodgate

Updated: Jan 24, 2023




Timmy absolutely loves to perform, but only when there isn't an audience! Most of the time, they struggle with their shy inner lion who seems determined to keep them out of the spotlight. This vibrant and uplifting picture book explores how to overcome shyness in a gentle and familiar way.


When Timmy's classmates begin to prepare for the school play, Timmy longs to be a part of the performance. However, feelings of shyness and fear threaten to stop Timmy from doing what they love. With a bit of help from their friend, Nia, and a whole lot of bravery, will Timmy ever be able to strike up the courage to perform on stage?

 

What a year it’s been for Harry Woodgate! Earlier this year their debut picture book as both author and illustrator, Grandad’s Camper, won Best Illustrated Book in the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2022, was nominated for the CILIP Yoto Kate Greenaway Award, and won a Stonewall Book Award Honor from the American Library Association. Their follow-up picture book Timid continues to push boundaries in children’s literature.


Timmy is an imaginative and creative non-binary child with big dreams of performing on stage. But they are held back by shyness and fear, embodied throughout the story by a cowardly, roaring lion. With the help of their friend Nia, Timmy learns to find their courage and tame their inner lion, just in time for a dazzling finale!


“We look the way a song makes me feel,” beamed Timmy.

Woodgate has a passion for writing and illustrating diverse and inclusive stories to inspire children to celebrate their uniqueness. This is a lovely tale of courage, friendship and overcoming anxiety, with a strong message to children that you can be whatever you want to be.


The use of they/them pronouns throughout helps to normalise non-binary identity. By the age of three, most children can easily label themselves as a girl or boy; for those children who do not identify as one or the other, books like Timid become a rare but essential mirror where they can see themselves reflected in the story. For all children – and parents – it provides a window through which to view the different experiences of others and creates opportunities for discussion about gender identity.


“Spinning around in sparkly costumes, speaking in silly voices and singing along to songs made their heart soar.”

Harry Woodgate themself is non-binary and so they write from a position of knowledge and lived experience bringing an authenticity to their work which is essential when creating diverse stories. However, this should not mean that authors without that lived experience avoid including characters from marginalised groups in their books. What it does mean is that research is essential, ideally talking to people who do have that lived experience to enable your writing to be accurate, informed and authentic.


If you are thinking of self-publishing your story, we would recommend using the services of a sensitivity reader who will read your manuscript and give you notes on how characters from marginalised groups are represented and whether there is anything within the story that could cause offence. Increasing diversity within children’s books is crucial but let’s make sure we do our characters, and the communities they represent, justice.



Now, it is not possible to review a Harry Woodgate book without giving due attention to the illustrations. The cover of this book screams ‘Pick me up and buy me!’ The energy and excitement of the stage conveyed by bright, vivid colour is in stark contrast with the two central characters who ooze anxiety. Even the title Timid is incongruous with its design bringing to mind a 1930s Hollywood mirror.


Throughout the book, the colour palette of yellows, pinks, purples and blues references the non-binary pride flag, and the illustrations are rich and fun with plenty to explore, culminating in a dazzling final spread.


All in all, this is a fabulous and uplifting picture book which reminds us about the importance of friendship and inspires us all to chase our dreams.


 

Support a local bookshop and pick up a copy of Harry Woodgate's Timid at Bookshop.org

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