The Loudest Bark
The Loudest Bark
Tonight, Mommy and Daddy are going to the theatre and I’m staying at Chloe’s. It’s the first time I will sleep in another house without my parents. Chloe answers the door with a huge smile. “Well hello, Simone! Delicious to see you!”
Simone. How wonderful that word sounds! It’s the first time someone has called me by the right name.
Simone and their parents live in a quiet home, and Simone’s parents are unaware of how Simone feels about their name or gender expression. But when Simone’s parents employ their neighbor Chloe as a babysitter, Simone finds someone they can confide in and who can help them come out of their shell. When Simone finds out that Chloe is a costume designer, the two work together to help Simone find clothes they feel comfortable in. Chloe’s dog is also pregnant, and Simone is hoping for one of the dogs to come live with them, but their parents aren’t all too supportive. At least, until some Simone’s parents come to an understanding with Chloe.
Amélie Ayotte’s energetic, vibrant, and intentionally messy illustrations, which give a sense of constant motion, accompany text written in a variety of fonts in varying colors by Schwartz and Gagnon. The various manipulated font styles sometimes distract from the narrative and can make it difficult to follow the flow of the narrative, though they do, in some ways, mirror the chaotic elements of the illustration style. What makes it all come together is Simone’s desire to let their parents know their real name.
In the end, Simone does get a dog, and they choose it because it’s the loudest dog and it makes life interesting for the whole family. But through Chloe, Simone manages to find the support needed to tell their parents about their name and to work toward getting a new pet, to bring some noise and energy to the house, and with it, even more love and acceptance. The Loudest Bark is a celebration of independence and a journey to self-confidence for a young person trying to assert their gender and gender expression. Thankfully, supportive parents keep the book from becoming a tale of tragedy.
A picture book about love, acceptance, compromise, and understanding, The Loudest Bark will find an audience with those whose children are questioning their gender expression and with parents who are trying to find ways to connect with their young ones.
The book is also available in French (softcover).
Rob Bittner has a PhD in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies (Simon Fraser University), and is also a graduate of the MA in Children’s Literature program at The University of British Columbia in Vancouver, British Columbia. He loves reading a wide range of literature, but particularly stories with diverse depictions of gender and sexuality.