PROVINCETOWN — When she reads aloud to children, Lil Miss Hot Mess often finds herself singing. At first, bursting into song with kids was just a way to make story hours more interactive. But after so many repetitions of “The Wheels on the Bus Go ’Round and ’Round,” how could she not come up with a parody?
Lil Miss Hot Mess’s first picture book, The Hips on the Drag Queen Go Swish, Swish, Swish, was published by Running Press Kids in 2020. Kirkus Reviews called it “a fun, movement-filled, family celebration of drag.”
The reader and author known as LMHM who helped found Drag Queen Story Hour in San Francisco in 2015 will be reading in Provincetown for the first time next Wednesday afternoon at Motta Field. The story hour is part of Family Week, which begins Saturday.
Drag Queen Story Hour recruits queens like Aida H Dee, Panda Dulce, and Miz Jade to bring their versions of story time to libraries, schools, book stores, museums, and other community spaces around the world. The nonprofit has 55 independent local chapters around the world, though there isn’t one in Provincetown, according to the organization’s website.
At story hours, the performers, dressed in glamorous outfits, colorful wigs, and extravagant makeup, read everything from best sellers like The Very Hungry Caterpillar to brand-new LGBTQ-centered books like Swish, Swish, Swish. The idea is to give children “the chance to engage with LGBTQ individuals and narratives,” says LMHM, “even if the youngest audience members might not quite understand it yet.”
Audience members typically range from three to eight years old, says LMHM, although sometimes younger children join in.
Lil Miss Hot Mess had a second children’s book published in May. If You’re a Drag Queen and You Know It was inspired by the popular tune “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” she says. She hopes her books are a way to reach families who can’t come to a story hour.
In her reading and writing, LMHM leans toward lighthearted stories and songs. “While I think it’s important for children to learn about some of the challenges in the world, like bullying and discrimination,” she says, she wrote her book “to contribute to a world that is by default more loving, equitable, and joyful.”
She says that one of the main roles of the performers who host story hours is capturing the spirit of drag, which she calls a practice of creativity and play, in an age-appropriate way. “So much of drag is about taking things in the mainstream and giving them a little bit of a twist,” she says.
“The best drag exposes some of the injustices in the world around us and disrupts the status quo,” LMHM says. “I think many people see this as happening exclusively around gender, but I think it can be so much bigger than that.
“It’s really about finding your own voice, often in a world that tells you you have to be quiet, and not being afraid to color outside of the lines.”
Lil’ Miss Reader
The event: Drag Queen Story Hour and Dance Party
The time: Wednesday, July 27, 2:30 to 4 p.m.
The place: Motta Field, Provincetown
The cost: Free