Jacob’s New Dress by Sarah and Ian Hoffman, illustrated by Chris Case
At school, Jacob loves to dress up as the princess during play time. Christopher though doesn’t approve of Jacob wearing girl clothes even to pretend. Jacob’s teacher steps in and explains that you can imagine being anything you like. At home, Jacob tells his mother about what Christopher said and she says that he is welcome to get out the dress he wore for Halloween and play in that. Jacob loves the witch dress and wants to wear it to school, but Jacob’s mother doesn’t think that’s a good idea. So Jacob creates his own dress from a towel that he wears to school, but Christopher pulls it off at recess and teases Jacob about wearing it. Back at home, Jacob asks his mother to make him a real dress to wear. She is reluctant, but agrees, and then Jacob has a new dress that is all his own to wear whenever he wants.
The authors take the issue of gender variance head on in this picture book, keeping it firmly at a level that children will understand. The focus is on Jacob’s desire to wear a dress, not the complexities of what that may mean to label him in any way. That makes this a book that is about inclusiveness and bullying as well as addressing the need for children who have gender differences to see themselves in a book.
I also appreciate the way the authors included not just Jacob’s emotions about asking for a dress from his mother, but also her own complex reaction to it. While the entire exchange was positive and supportive, the pauses placed in the text spoke volumes about the emotions happening at the same time.
Case’s art is colorful and cute. The characters clearly show their emotions on their faces. The various dresses that Jacob wears are cleverly depicted. The lace on his final dress is clear but so are the dirty spots from playing in it.
An important book for libraries to have, this book will speak to children exploring their own gender roles and would make a great addition to diversity units. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.