A Costume for Charly

by C K Malone (Author) Alejandra Barajas (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

Halloween is always tricky for Charly, and this year they are determined to find a costume that showcases both the feminine and masculine halves of their identity.

Digging through their costume box, they explore many fun costumes. Some are masc. Some are femme. Some are neither. But all are lacking. As trick-or-treating looms, they must think outside the box to find the perfect costume--something that will allow them to present as one hundred percent Charly.

School Library Journal

Bi-gender Charly is determined to find a Halloween costume that represents their whole identity, showing they're both a boy and a girl. Their Dracula costume makes their femme side feel erased, and the Little Red Riding Hood costume leaves their masc side in the dust. The only solution? Charly must get creative! They put their snipping and sewing skills to work and create a costume that makes them feel "joyfully jazzed, harmoniously hopeful, and one hundred percent Charly." Cartoon-style digital illustrations are tinged with blue and purple Halloween hues and feature some whimsical, magical flourishes. When the time comes for the big reveal, Charly's mostly accepting friends think their costume is wacky but wonderful. Charly's refreshing confidence in their own gender identity is evident throughout the story, though the implication that a Dracula costume might only be for boys because Dracula was a male vampire may strike some readers as unnecessarily binary. Back matter includes information on bi-gender identity and select LGBTQIA+ resources. VERDICT Charly's joyous creativity and persistence will encourage trick-or-readers to think outside of the box this Halloween. —Allison Staley

Copyright 2022 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly

Young Charly, portrayed with brown skin, can't decide whether to be "fabulous or frightening" for Halloween, but they know one thing for sure: this year's costume has to be "something that showed they were both a boy and a girl." Barajas's slick, animation-like illustrations have a slice-of-life energy as they envision Charly assessing the options in the costume box: a Red Riding Hood outfit makes Charly's "boy half felt eaten by the wolf," while a Dracula costume "took a bite out of their girl half." Momentarily disheartened ("Why can't there be a costume just for me?"), Charly musters some ingenuity worthy of Project Runway. In Malone's earnest prose, there is never any doubt in this protagonist, who does whatever it takes to feel "one hundred percent Charly." An afterword discusses bigender identity. Ages 4-12. (Sept.)

Copyright 2022 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.


Cartoony illustrations capture Charly's determination to find the right costume, and the way wearing it ultimately makes them feel 'joyfully jazzed' and 'harmoniously hopeful." 

Review quotes

The detailed illustrations contrast bold reds with moody blues, depicting Charly's frustration, creativity, and ultimate joy in their search for the perfect ensemble. In the end, Charly discovers that just because they are wearing a costume doesn't mean they can't still be themselves. —Foreword Reviews

This story about a queer kid finding their own solution to a problem—and the problem not being their identity or people's reaction to it—is upbeat and welcome. —Mombian

Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
September 20, 2022
BISAC categories
JUV051000 - Juvenile Fiction | Imagination & Play
JUV048000 - Juvenile Fiction | Clothing & Dress
JUV017030 - Juvenile Fiction | Holidays & Celebrations | Halloween
JUV060000 - Juvenile Fiction | LGBT
Library of Congress categories
Picture books
Gender identity

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