Review: I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel

i am jazz

I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel & Jazz Jennings, illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas

Told in the first person, Jazz explains to readers her favorite things like the color pink, dancing, singing, makeup and mermaids.  She talks about her best friends Samantha and Casey and what they do together.  Then Jazz talks about how she is different than the girls she is friends with.  Jazz was born a boy but has a girl brain.  She explains that she is transgender and then talks about how she has been this way since she was a very little child.  Readers will see her family come to terms with Jazz being transgender and the support she got from them and the school she attends.  The end touches on bullying, but that is not the focus of this book.  It is a positive and personal look at being a transgender child.

Written by Herthel and Jazz herself, this book takes the right tone about the subject from the first page.  First, it establishes firmly that Jazz is a girl.  It is only after that that readers are told that she is transgender.  That topic is handled in a very matter-of-fact way and the book does not delve into issues of genitals, hormones or treatments of any kind.  It is kept right at the correct level so that this can be used with children who are transgender themselves or have a transgender sibling or classmate. 

McNicholas’ illustrations keep Jazz merrily feminine throughout.  When depicting Jazz as a little boy as a younger child, the illustrations manage without anything overt to show how out-of-place Jazz feels in those clothes and that hair.  It is gently framed, but clear in the pictures that Jazz is much happier living as a girl.

A great pick for classrooms or schools with transgender children, this is also a book that parents will appreciate having at their library.  Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Dial.

Review: The Storm Whale by Benji Davies

storm whale

The Storm Whale by Benji Davies

Noi lives with his father in a house by the sea with six cats.  Every day, his father goes out fishing, leaving Noi alone all day long.  One day, after a big storm, Noi sees something out on the beach.  It’s a baby whale.  Noi knows it will not live long without water, so he takes the whale home and puts it in the bathtub.  He spends time with the whale, telling it stories.  But he also worries that his father will be angry when he finds a whale in the house.  So Noi tries to keep the whale a secret from his father, but it doesn’t last for long.  A whale is a big secret to keep in a small family.  Together, the two of them return the whale to the sea, but not before they each learn something about one another and how to move forward as a stronger family.

Davies manages to tell a profound story using minimal words.  The text in the book mainly explains the action that is happening.  It does not offer insight into the emotions of the characters.  That is a large part of the power of this book.  So much goes unsaid but is clear to the reader.  Noi’s loneliness is shown rather than told.  Him lingering by the window as his father leaves, the fact that he brings the whale home across a stretch of beach rather than pushing him back into the nearby water.  Even the father’s reaction is shown this way, allowing the emotions to be realized rather than explained.

The illustrations tell much of the story here, but again in a quiet and frank manner.  The emotions are not broadcast from the character’s faces but from their situations and their body language.  It’s a brave way to tell a story about a father and son reconnecting with one another.

Adeptly conceived and powerful, this picture book speaks to loneliness and family, and would be great as a discussion book for young children about emotions.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Henry Holt and Co.

This Week’s Tweets, Pins & Tumbls

Here are the links I shared on my Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr accounts this week that I think are cool:

14 Favorite Quotes from Children's Books - Imagination Soup Imagination Soup Fun Learning and Play Activities for Kids


Author Interview: Carl Hiaasen on His Latest Skink Novel and Why He Won’t Do Vampires #kidlit

Diversity in Publishing Matters (Whether You Like It Or Not) – BOOK RIOT #weneeddiversebooks #diversity

Marla Frazee Talks with Roger – The Horn Book #kidlit

Michael Morpurgo: how the sinking of the Lusitania inspired my new book | Children’s books | The Guardian #kidlit

‘The Pushcart War’ at 50 #kidlit

Top 10 health and safety fails in children’s books | Children’s books #yalit #kidlit


The Mess of Ebooks | Library Journal #ebooks #libraries

Mural-sized historic photos of iconic boardwalk amusements and salvaged wooden decking tie Brooklyn PL’s Coney Island Library to its famous beachfront attractions, a mere two blocks away. The texture of the vinyl floor reflects the grain in the ceiling.


Library of Things seeks to expand non-book offerings at Sacramento Public Library – #libraries

Miami-Dade libraries need to end ‘bookish’ attitude, panel says | The Miami Herald #libraries

New $2 million teen learning lab coming to Central Library #libraries

Shared Story Provocation: Bookmaking & Kids’ Library : Sturdy for Common Things #libraries


5 Tips For Getting Out of a Long-Term Reading Slump – BOOK RIOT #reading


Are you ready for some football…books? – The Horn Book #yalit

Book Review: ‘Afterworlds,’ By Scott Westerfeld | : NPR #yalit

The Fault in Our Stars Has Been Banned in Schools | Vanity Fair #yalit

Knickers? Snogging? Can we really transport humour across the pond? | Children’s books #yalit

Stacked: Guest Post: Fiona Woods on Female Sexuality in YA Fiction #yalit