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

 

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