A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that I Am Jazz is an autobiographical picture book about a transgender child. In her words, "I have a girl brain but a boy body." Coauthor Jazz Jennings, 13, sketches out the story of her life -- so far -- as a transgender child with a loving, supportive family and good friends. She encounters challenges and teasing, and the way she copes makes her story helpful to all children who sometimes feel like outsiders. In many ways, Jazz seems to be a stereotypical girl -- so much so that the tone of the book may be off-putting to boys, as well as parents who don't want to reinforce gender stereotypes.
What's the story?
Jazz seems like an ordinary girl. She loves pink, dancing, makeup, and even swimming with a mermaid tail. But she's far from typical: Jazz was born a boy, and her parents struggled to understand her until a doctor explained that she was transgender. From that point forward, her parents let her dress as a girl at home and in public, to grow her hair long, and to change her name to Jazz. She recounts how comfortable she felt after making that change. Jazz also shares some of the difficulties, such as convincing her school to let her use the girls' bathrooms and play on the girls' team, and dealing with teasing at school.
Is it any good?
I AM JAZZ straightforwardly explains to very young children a topic that can confuse even adults. It isn't particularly dramatic -- to the contrary, and this is partly the point, Jazz is depicted as a rather ordinary (if unusually confident) young girl. It's that ordinariness that helps make this book special. Jazz's story will resonate both with families discussing gender identity and with children who feel different from their peers in other ways. Jazz's assertive positivity is a terrific model for children learning to be confident. Warm watercolor illustrations add to the cheerful tone, and photographs at the back show Jazz dressed as a young boy, as a girl, and as a mermaid.
This is an excellent choice to jump-start a conversation about gender, identify, compassion, and honesty. One small quibble: With lavish pink and purple hues and an emphasis on how girly Jazz is, the story may alienate some boys and parents who don't want to reinforce gender stereotypes.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what it means to be "normal" or "different." Is there something that makes you happy that also makes you different from your friends?
Why do you think kids sometimes tease people who seem different?
Jazz talks about having a "girl brain." Families can talk about how girls and boys are often described and in what ways the people in your family meet or defy those expectations. Read our articles about gender and media for some tips and conversation starters.
- Authors: Jessica Herthel, Jazz Jennings
- Illustrator: Shelagh McNicholas
- Genre: Picture Book
- Topics: Great Girl Role Models, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Non-Fiction
- Publisher: Dial Books
- Publication date: September 4, 2014
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 4 - 8
- Number of pages: 32
- Available on: Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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