Big personalities with big hair shared stories at the Edmonton Public Library on Sunday afternoon that they say they wish they'd heard when they were kids.
"It's OK to be different," Lourdes, a local drag queen, read from Todd Parr's picture book of the same name to the children assembled for the city's first-ever Over the Rainbow Storytime session.
About 150 people were packed into the library's Strathcona branch to hear from Lourdes and her friends Chelsea, Go Go Fetch and TJB.
Lourdes, who led the event, appeared to easily connect with the crowd. The audience followed her in unique rendition of the "Five Little Monkeys" jumping on the bed rhyme, laughing at her substitution of five clumsy drag queens struggling in high heels.
Lourdes is also Jonathan Busch, who works as a library assistant, sometimes leading educational sing-along songs for toddlers.
Melding the two worlds together seemed natural to Lourdes, who said a lot of aspects of drag appeal to children.
"We dress like princesses. The drag kings dress like cowboys. They bring stuff that the kids are drawn to," Lourdes said Sunday.
TJB read "The Boy Who Cried Fabulous" to the children.
"So many synonyms!" she exclaimed, as she read through the rhymes telling the story of a little boy who viewed the world with irrepressible optimism despite his pessimistic parents.
TJB said it's important to broaden childrens' horizons in a way that lets them know they should be themselves.
"Edmonton's still a very conservative climate and so again, for young impressionable children who may not be fitting into the binary boxes in the world, it's very important for them to have examples of people and places they can grow into that are inclusive," TJB said.
'Nothing better than a drag queen reading a story'
Kristopher Wells, the faculty director at the Institute of Sexual Minority Studies and Services at the University of Alberta, said he brought up the idea of holding Over the Rainbow Storytime to a responsive Edmonton Public Library executive.
"What I've learned today is there's nothing better than a drag queen reading a story," Wells said.
He said the turnout was better than he expected.
"I had tears in my eyes seeing the families stream in here and the excitement where people felt safe and at home," he said.
"To see the rapt attention of these kids, the excitement, the happiness, the freedom to be themselves, to celebrate their families and reflect our community, this is what pride should be all about."
Krista Kohutch said she brought her daughter, Emily, to the event because she thought it would be a good opportunity for the little girl to learn about inclusivity.
But Kohutch said it was also a lot of fun for the both of them and if the library holds Over the Rainbow Storytime again, they'll go.
"The queens were awesome," Kohutch said. "I think they brought a really exciting energy to the regular stories."
Claire McDaniel agreed, adding it was different than other events she's attended.
"Usually, it's like parents reading it," she said. "It was really good and really funny."