The gorgeously illustrated picture book, When Aidan Became a Brother, is about understanding and appreciating oneself and making space for others to feel unconditional love and support. 

“When Aidan was born, everyone thought he was a girl.” He hated the sound of his name and he would “accidentally-on-purpose” rip and stain his clothes. Not everybody understood Aidan, but Aidan understood himself. After telling his family that he is transgender  (“It was hard to tell his parents what he knew about himself, but it was even harder not to.”) and connecting with other families like his, things start to look up. But when Aidan’s mom announces that she is having a second baby, Aidan worries. What if people don’t understand who the baby is? What if Aidan isn’t a good big brother? 

As if that stress isn’t enough, adults keep making statements that are exclusive and reinforce a gender binary. When Aidan’s mom is asked “Are you having a boy or a girl?” she replies, “I’m having a baby.” When a clerk at a shop looks at Aidan and says “Are you excited for your new brother or sister?” Aidan says, “I’m excited to be a big brother.” While Aidan and his caregivers handle these frustrating interactions with grace, they remind Aidan of his own trauma, from which he wants to do everything to protect his new family member. After acknowledging these emotions and discussing his fears with his mom, Aidan is comforted and reassured: “Aidan knew how to love someone, and that was the most important part of being a big brother.”

The text by Kyle Lukoff is gentle, straightforward, and affirming. Kaylani Juanita’s inky watercolor-like illustrations show everything from characters’ facial expressions to their trendy clothes in vibrant hues. Rhythmic pacing and a thoughtful balance of image and text lead to well-paced page turns, making this an excellent read-aloud for shared exploration and reflection.