Book Review: Wrestle! by Charlotte Mars, Maya Newell & Gus Skattebol-James

As Gus and his two mums prepare for Mardi Gras, he wants to wear his wrestling outfit but they want a son who is good, popular and kind.

A colourful picture book for ages 4-8 about choosing your own path and being whoever you want to be.

In 2015, Maya Newell and Charlottoe Mars produced and directed “Gayby Baby”, a documentary about growing up with same-sex parents. Gus Skattebol-James appeared in this documentary at the age of 10. Newell and Mars have come together again with Skattebol-James to write Wrestle!

This is a book about following your dreams even though others disagree.

This story is inspired by the true life story of Gus. Gus has two mums and a sister. They are getting ready for their biggest day of the year, the Mardi Gras. But what costume should Gus wear? He loves wrestling more than anything in the whole world and that is all he thinks about. It is the obvious answer. But one of his mums is not too sure. She is worries that Gus will think that being the strongest and toughest is the most important trait in a person. They want a son who is good, popular and kind. How can Gus change the minds of his mums? His sister tries to help but that backfires as well.

Same sex marriage has been at the forefront of the Australian consciousness for the past few years, and as more same sex partners have families, books like this will become more commonplace.

This is a good book to read to all children. Firstly, for those who come from a family with same sex parents, they can see that they are not so different. Secondly to those from a more traditional family, they can see that children with two mums or two dads are exactly the same. There is no right way to be a family. They still fight with their siblings, they still have arguments with their parents, and they still have people who love them and care about them. 

The illustrations by Tom Jellett are bold and colourful. Each page is filled with colour. They give us a sense of family life.

Wrestle! and books like it should be in all schools, so that we can have conversations with young children not about our differences, but about our similarities.

As Gus Skattebol-James says under the authors note, “Nothing is definite; everyone can be whatever kind of wrestler they want to be”.

Reviewed by Sue Mauger

Distributed by: Allen & Unwin
Released: February 2019
RRP: $24.99 hardcover

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