Book review: I am Jazz, by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas

Herthel I Am JazzHerthel, Jessica and Jazz Jennings. I Am Jazz. Dial, 2014. $17.99. 32p. HC. 978-0803741072.

In a child’s easily understood voice, 13-year-old Jazz tells her story. She explains how her parents let her play as a girl at home where her siblings accept her as her parents do. “But whenever we went out, I had to put on my boy clothes again. This made me mad!” After a new doctor explains that Jazz is transgender, she lives as a girl at school as well as at home. Jazz acknowledges that she has had problems with other kids and with school rules about boys and girls but says that she feels happy and proud as her authentic self.

The pastel watercolor illustrations by Shelagh McNicholas are a bit sugary, but they fit the child’s perceptions and make her life seem very normal and create an impression that this is simply another picture book and not a society-improving tract. For families with children who are transgender or gender non-conforming, this book is affirming and age appropriate. It will also serve adults who want to encourage all children to be more understanding of gender diversity. I Am Jazz belongs in every library that serves the primary grades and in every collection of materials about people who are transgender.

Carolyn Caywood, Retired
Virginia Beach Public Library

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