Book review: It Feels Good to Be Yourself: A Book about Gender Identity, by Theresa Thorn and Noah Grigni

Thorn, Theresa (author) and Noah Grigni (illus.). It Feels Good to Be Yourself: A Book about Gender Identity. 2019. $17.99. 45p. HC. 978-1-250-30295-3.

As a youth librarian who mostly serves children birth-5, I read a lot of picture books – typically at least 10-20 new titles each week. Some make me laugh, others make me cry. Some become favorites, others are quickly forgotten. But a select few truly resonate with me – both the part of me that’s still a child and the 30-year-old still trying to figure out my life. Theresa Thorn’s May release, It Feels Good to Be Yourself: A Book about Gender Identity recently joined those exclusive ranks.

A non-fiction title geared toward children 3-9 years old, It Feels Good to Be Yourself tackles gender identity in the simplest yet sweetest way, providing a jumping-off point into a topic many caregivers find daunting. The story begins by introducing Ruthie, a transgender girl with brown skin, and her cisgender younger brother, Xavier. From there, we meet Alex – a light-skinned child who is both boy and girl, and for whom no pronouns are used – and Alex’s friend JJ – a brown-skinned child who uses a wheelchair, is neither boy nor girl, and uses they/them pronouns.

While these four children are the only ones identified within the text, Thorn is careful to point out there “are a never-ending number of ways to be yourself in the world,” and Noah Grigni’s accompanying #ownvoices illustrations showcase a wide-range of gender expressions. The lush colors of Grigni’s art are reminiscent of From the Stars in the Sky to the Fish in the Sea (2017) – a title recommended in this book’s “helpful resources” – but without the fantastical setting. Also featured in Thorn’s back matter are a glossary of terms and note about pronouns, both useful resources to assist caregivers in handling this topic with sensitivity.

All told, It Feels Good to Be Yourself is a much-needed, refreshing addition to library shelves. Highly recommended.

-Kate Frick, Darien Library

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