For centuries, young readers have grown up with carbon copy fairy tales. A princess or damsel in distress needs rescuing and a prince or local nobleman arrives just in time to save the day and the beautiful woman. Of course, this isn’t a story that all readers can relate to and thankfully there is finally an Option B.
New Zealand authors Adam Reynolds and Chaz Harris are giving young readers an alternate fairy tale with a happy ending that has largely been absent from literature. In their new children’s book Promised Land, Reynolds and Harris take on the traditional fairy tale elements, but this time give their audience a same-sex love story.
Aimed at readers ages 5 – 10, the story follows a young Prince and a farm boy who live in a kingdom where all people are considered equal, regardless of how they look or who they love. The two boys meet and fall in love, only to have their relationship tested by the Prince’s new stepfather, who wants to control the enchanted forest, which the farm boy’s family protects.
Harris spoke to The Huffington Post about the importance of children seeing themselves reflected in the media and stories around them. “The [kinds of media] we consume as kids and young adults form our attitudes towards those around us,” said Harris. “Most importantly, they influence our attitudes towards ourselves. If you don’t see yourself in stories, you don’t see yourself in the world and I believe that lack of visibility creates the kind of ‘otherness’ we often experience as LGBTQ+ people. If we can be heroes in stories, we’re seen more positively in the real world.”
Harris and Reynolds dedicated Promised Land to the 49 people who tragically lost their lives during the Orlando Pulse nightclub massacre in 2016. Many of the locations in the fictional Kingdom of Valeria in Promised Land are named after activists in the LGBTQ community, including Ellen DeGeneres, Marsha P. Johnson, Elton John, Lady Gaga, and Matthew Shepard, the young American man who was brutally murdered in 1988 in one of the most famous cases of hate crime to date.
The book came to fruition thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign in New Zealand, started by Harris and Reynolds, which raised over $43,000 and covered the cost of illustrating and printing the first edition of Promised Land.
Just released in February, Promised Land is already available in ebook and audio book form and has been translated into Spanish and Portuguese. Digital printable sheets for children to colour and activity packs are also available on the book’s website.