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I Am Jazz

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
I Am Jazz Book Poster Image
Sweet, straightforward story of young transgender girl.

Parents say

age 2+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 3+
Based on 1 review

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

I Am Jazz explains what it means to be transgender in very simple terms: Jazz says she has a girl brain but a boy body. It illustrates what it can be like for families, teachers, and classmates to come to terms with what it means to be transgender. Photographs in the back show Jazz dressed as a young boy, then a young girl, and even as a mermaid.

 

Positive Messages

Jazz's story teaches how good it can feel to be true to yourself and how important loving friends and family can be. She's happiest when she isn't made to hide part of herself. Supportive family and friends are very important to her. Jazz talks about feeling "crummy" when she's teased and shares how she buffers herself from unkind people. 

 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Jazz is confident and cheerful. When she's teased, she says, she focuses on the kids who've gotten to know her and think she's nice. She's a great inspiration for children dealing with teasing for any reason, regardless of gender. Her parents are confused at first and seek advice from a doctor. They embrace Jazz as a transgender child and support her wholly. 

 

Violence & Scariness

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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byLinda D. September 28, 2017
Adult Written byhatred a. June 6, 2018
Kid, 11 years old January 6, 2018

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.

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