Despite what you teach them in your house, society sends your impressionable little kids tons of gender-based messages, among them the idea that, as you disgracefully sung at karaoke that time, “boys don’t cry.” While you’ve probably read your kid a bedtime story or 2 about heroic luchadores and pirates and ninjas and … Santa ninjas (?), it’s safe to assume none of those stories ended with, “And he lived sensitively ever after.” Which is why it’s so refreshing to see a picture book that encourages kids — specifically boys — to open up about their emotions by showing those heroes doing the same.
Tough Guys (Have Feelings Too), Keith Negley’s debut from Flying Eye Books, presents the aforementioned macho men, along with a racecar driver, astronaut, cowboy, and more, at precisely the moment when life, to borrow a phrase from your kids, has hit them right in the feels. Brightly colored, 2-page spreads depict them all in full costume at their most vulnerable. The luchador sweats and sobs as his intimidating foe awaits him in the ring. The caped crusader sits atop a building with a sandwich, enduring the Superman version of sad desk lunch. The biker mourns the loss of a squirrel who picked the wrong time to cross the road.
In the end, a father and son read in bed together and act out scenes as all of the aforementioned characters, because damn it, tough guys love each other. It’s a touching reminder to your boy that it’s okay to express himself, and will ensure he doesn’t laugh in your face again the next time he finds you hiding in the bathroom sobbing into the mirror that this whole parenting thing is all just too much.