Monday, 3 October 2016

I am Jazz by Jessica Herthel & Jazz Jennings, illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas [Non-fiction picture book]

I am Jazz 
Written by Jessica Herthel & Jazz Jennings
Illustrations by Shelagh McNicholas
Dial / Penguin, 2014
ISBN 9780903741072

This picture book is the true story of Jazz Jennings (credited as co-author) who knew from when she was very young that she was a girl in a boy's body - she is transgender. "I have a girl brain in a boy body."

The picture book introduces Jazz through all the things she loves to do and wear, before revealing that she was born a boy. Her parents take her to see a doctor who explained to her parents that Jazz was transgender, after which they let her be who she really is, which is followed by school also being accepting, with some teasing along the way. 

I'm sure the actual process was nowhere near as smooth as the simple and clear picture book text indicates, but this story is going to enable people to discuss LGBTQ issues with young and older children, and for children who feel that they are different to others, to understand that they are not alone and there is a way to be able to feel like your real self. 

"Mom said that being Jazz would make me different from the other kids at school, but that being different is okay. What's important, she said, is that I'm happy with who I am."

The only quandary I have with this is the depiction of girls as frilly, pink, playing with dolls, dancing princesses, high heels etc, although thank goodness they are also attributed with liking soccer, swimming and doing back flips. 

I love that this is the story of a real person, someone who's making a big difference for others by sharing this story. 

You can see a video clip of Jazz talking about being transgender, and her book on the Transkids Purple Rainbow Foundation website where you can also find other useful resources.

Check out this excellent article about Jazz from the Daily Mail.

I anticipate that this book won't escape accusations of being inappropriate for some schools like the one mentioned in this article where they've cancelled a reading of the book after threats. No doubt it will end up on the 'banned books' list like some other excellent titles.

Jazz was named one of Time Magazine's 25 most influential teens in 2014.

I borrowed this book from Auckland Libraries  where you will also find another title from Jazz Jennings, Being Jazz in ebook form. It includes the years following those covered in I am Jazz.

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