Jacob’s Room to Choose by Sarah and Ian Hoffman

Published: 7th May 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Magination Press
Illustrator: Chris Case
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

The beloved lead character from Jacob’s New Dress is back in an encouraging story about gender expression. When Jacob goes to the boys’ bathroom he is chased out because the boys think he looks like a girl because of the way he is dressed. His classmate, Sophie, has a similar experience when she tries to go to the girls’ bathroom. When their teacher finds out what happened, Jacob and Sophie, with the support of administration, lead change at their school as everyone discovers the many forms of gender expression and how to treat each other with respect.

Jacob is back and once again Sarah and Ian Hoffman have made a nice story that is about acceptance, understanding, and education. We’re introduced to Jacob’s friend Sophie, we aren’t give a backstory on this character but she is Jacob’s friend and dresses in typically masculine dress. She, like Jacob, experience problems when trying to use the bathroom.

Neither Jacob or Sophie are presented as being trans, but their different ways of expressing themselves makes them appear to others like their opposite gender which results in issues when trying to use the bathrooms at school. I loved the exercise the teacher has the class conduct because it is a basic, visual experiment that not everyone looks alike nor does it matter who uses the bathroom because everyone must go at some point. In both stories about Jacob the teacher has been a fighting force which is fantastic, even the small nudges make huge impacts and I love seeing adults so supportive and understanding.

I also love that these books are about gender expression and gender non-conformity. It fills the gap between cisgender and trans books which kids can easily understand and be educated on. The authors are writing from experience and they use this to create a heartfelt story showing that education really works and everyone deserves to feel safe and happy no matter where they are. I loved that these lessons can be taught to kids from an early age, the problems come, as the author’s message at the back states, with those who are older who haven’t been taught these messages of acceptance.

Once again Case’s illustrations help represent the message the story is trying to convey. The pictures are a mix of full page and small patches on the page but they tell the same story with a lot of emotion behind them in the character’s actions and expressions.

I’ll be interested to see if there are future books about Jacob because It’s love to see the Hoffman’s cover other situations and challenges the gender non-conforming kids will face.

You can purchase Jacob’s Room to Choose via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

 

Introducing Teddy by Jess Walton

Published: 31st May 2016Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Illustrator: Dougal MacPherson
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

One sunny day, Errol finds that Thomas the Teddy is sad, and Errol can’t figure out why. Then Thomas the Teddy finally tells Errol what Teddy has been afraid to say: ‘In my heart, I’ve always known that I’m a girl Teddy, not a boy Teddy. I wish my name was Tilly.’ And Errol says, ‘I don’t care if you’re a girl teddy or a boy teddy! What matters is that you are my friend.’

This is a beautiful story about Thomas the teddy, his friend Errol and Thomas’ desire to be his true self.

The narrative is a lot simpler than what I was expecting, but it is still a great story because it doesn’t complicate anything. We’re shown Thomas the Teddy’s fears about not having a friend anymore when he tells his friend his secret, but we’re also shown acceptance and love when he does.

Walton shows that nothing changes in teddy and Errol’s routine, it is exactly the same and she shows that telling people and showing them who you really are can be easy and matter of fact as well. Highlights have to be how Teddy’s friends immediately switch to her new pronouns when she tells them she would like to be Tilly instead of Thomas.

The illustrations by MacPherson are adorable, simple but descriptive as well, and I love that Teddy and Errol have this fun relationship that they continue to have when Errol learns Teddy would like to be Tilly.

Because it is a simple narrative it doesn’t take away the importance, but it is an easy to understand story for kids and with all the main moments covered by Walton’s story it is a great way to explore the topic. As the subtitle on the book says, it is a gentle guide to gender and friendship.

You can purchase Introducing Teddy via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Jacob’s New Dress by Sarah and Ian Hoffman

Published: 1st March 2014Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Albert Whitman Company
Illustrator: Chris Case
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Jacob loves playing dress-up, when he can be anything he wants to be. Some kids at school say he can’t wear “girl” clothes, but Jacob wants to wear a dress to school. Can he convince his parents to let him wear what he wants? This heartwarming story speaks to the unique challenges faced by boys who don’t identify with traditional gender roles.

I may have cried a little at the start from the simple line of “There are all sorts of ways to be a boy” and also because the conversations between Jacob and his mum are wonderful, and the writing has hit an ideal balance of acceptance and practical reluctance.

The dialogue used is about support and comfortableness. Jacob’s mum and dad don’t dismiss his ideas, but they use language to work around it. His mum is supportive but apprehensive but finds a solution to Jacob’s desires, and his dad compliments Jacob’s outfit while acknowledging it wouldn’t be something he would wear he doesn’t shut down the idea.

It’s a powerful book in that it doesn’t have answers. It was written after the authors son was gender non-conforming and I think this story is a great expression of that. It doesn’t have answers either way whether Jacob wishes he were a girl, or whether he feels weird in his body – he just likes to wear dresses. It is a great story to demonstrate that there is nothing wrong with kids exploring and trying new things. It does no harm to anyone and it gives them a chance to have fun.

There are no big conversations or topics raised, and the story doesn’t go into any further depth but it doesn’t need to. There’s a chance Jacob grows out of it and there is a chance he doesn’t, but that is not the point that is being made. It is about allowing Jacob to do something he is comfortable doing, showing him he has the support of his family, showing that there is nothing wrong with it, and it also shows that an easy conversation can be had that kids and adults alike can understand.

It isn’t all smooth sailing. We see Jacob’s apprehension, especially when it seems he isn’t going to get the support he wants and when he is dismissed by his peers, but there is a silver lining because we also see the acceptance around him and how he grows in himself and how his own pride outweighs the meanness of others.

Case’s illustrations are cartoony but realistic. The pictures are full page and coloured and the text is nestled amongst it as part of the story. The full pages allow for big scenes where entire classrooms and playgrounds can be shown which supports the narrative and shows off the scenes better than simpler or smaller images might. Case captures the emotion and drama in facial expressions and it enhances the fear and joy Jacob feels, as well as the feelings of those in his class.

I like this story because it is sweet and simple, and it shows how easy these kinds of situations can be. There are challenges as shown by the obnoxious child who clearly is repeating the things his parents say, but there are also wonderful moments where everyone else doesn’t see any problem with that and the narrative shapes these arguments in seamless and natural ways.

You can purchase Jacob’s New Dress via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

  Amazon | Amazon Aust

This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman

Published: 5th May 2014Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Magination Press
Illustrator: Kristyna Litten
Pages: 40
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

This day in June…. Parade starts soon…. Rainbow arches…. Joyful marches!

In a wildly whimsical, validating, and exuberant reflection of the LGBT community, This Day In June welcomes readers to experience a pride celebration and share in a day when we are all united.

Also included is a Note to Parents and Other Caregivers with information on how to talk to children about sexual orientation and gender identity in age-appropriate ways as well as a Reading Guide chock-full of facts about LGBT history and culture. This Day in June is an excellent tool for teaching respect, acceptance, and understanding of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.

This story comes from the American Psychological Association and is a great resource to teach children (and adults) about the history and culture of LGBTQIA people all centred on the parade. It does have an American focus, but there are elements that are universal as well, especially as the movements in the States had reverberating effects around the world.

There is not as much story as I was thinking there would be, but it still reads like a nice poem. There is a great amount of history expressed though you don’t realise it at the time. I enjoyed the premise more than I’d give credit to an interesting narrative. The poem style story doesn’t explain much, a lot needs to be understood from the information at the back of the book.

The lines of the poem themselves are vague and simple enough, but reading about what they are references offers a greater insight into the pride activities, participants, and history. The reading guide at the end breaks down the lines with the historical connotations such as the parade being in June, or the “sisters painting” relating to The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.

What I loved was Litten doesn’t shy away from the illustrations because these are pictures of the pride parade and there are people dressed in all manner of clothing, including the leather shorts and the “Dykes on Bikes” seen at countless pride parades. There are families, same-sex couples, and a range of costume and floats to depict all the various things usually seen at Pride.

This is a simple book but is one that could be a great resource and introduction/celebration of Pride, especially since these issues are relevant every month of the year.

You can purchase This Day In June via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Wordery

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Celebrating Pride Month

June is here! Honestly who would have thought it would ever come with the rate at which some of these months were passing (looking at you March). The start of June brings on winter, brings on the cold days and crisp mornings, and it also means it’s the start of Pride Month. I was super not on the ball last year so I am going to try harder this time around to get some of the great LGBTQIA content I have read out.

The annual LGBTQIA Pride Celebration grew out of the Stonewall Riots in June 1969. Each June various events are held around the world to celebrate including street parties, poetry readings, educational sessions, parades, and peaceful protests.

This month to celebrate and raise awareness I will be posting up reviews of LGBTQIA books I read from my shelves, and I will also be sharing reviews on Facebook and Twitter of some absolutely amazing books I have read in the past so check those out. Or follow the tags because I have tried to have some consistency in that.

The wonderful thing is there are books in every age and reading range that can be celebrated. I will be covering picture books, junior fiction, anthologies and essays, young adult and adult books, #ownvoices, #LoveOZYA so many different areas so there will be a story for everyone to discover.

Certainly I will not be covering anywhere near what is out there and I would love to get some suggestions to expand my reading. If you have some amazing LGBTQIA books/authors you think more people should read leave them in the comments for people to discover. I know I have pushed a few of my favourite books onto people so I could have someone to gush about it with so feel free to share your favourite rainbow reads below. I will also try to share some great lists of Pride books that are floating around as well.

I am looking forward to sharing some of my favourite books with you this month and it will be a great chance to celebrate some fantastic books and authors.

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