An empowering, timely story with the power to help readers proclaim, in the words of Jazz’s parents, “We understand now."...

I AM JAZZ

An autobiographical picture book describes trans-youth activist Jazz Jennings’ story of embracing and asserting her transgender identity.

Both the title and the opening text proclaims, “I am Jazz!” The book goes on to detail Jazz’s various interests and tastes, which follow traditionally feminine gender norms. But as Jazz goes on to explain, she has “a girl brain but a boy body. This is called transgender. I was born this way!” Although the realistic watercolor illustrations consistently display only happy faces in these beginning pages, the text recounts her family’s struggle to understand her early-childhood assertion of femininity: “At first my family was confused. They’d always thought of me as a boy.” Jazz recalls her pain when compelled to wear “boy clothes” in public. “Pretending I was a boy felt like telling a lie.” Her parents’ efforts to understand prompt them to meet with a doctor who introduces the word “transgender,” which enables the family’s powerful affirmation: “We understand now. Be who you are. We love you no matter what.” The story balances this acceptance with honest acknowledgement of others’ ongoing confusion and intermittent cruelty, and it briefly addresses Jazz’s exclusion from girls’ soccer in her state. Ultimately, Jazz’s self-acceptance, bolstered by her family’s support and advocacy, acts as a beacon for readers, trans- and cisgender alike.

An empowering, timely story with the power to help readers proclaim, in the words of Jazz’s parents, “We understand now." (Picture book. 3 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8037-4107-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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A wonderfully charming tale of family and sisters that anyone can bond with.

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SISTERS

Two sisters who are constantly at odds take a family road trip that covers more ground—both literally and figuratively—than they expect.

After begging her parents for a sister, Raina gets more than she bargained for once Amara is born. From the moment she was brought home, Amara hasn’t been quite the cuddly playmate that Raina had hoped. As the years pass, the girls bicker constantly and apparently couldn’t be more unalike: Raina spends her time indoors underneath her headphones, and Amara loves animals and the outdoors. The girls, their mother and their little brother all pack up to drive to a family reunion, and it seems like the trip’s just going to be more of the same, with the girls incessantly picking on each other all the way from San Francisco to Colorado. However, when the trip doesn’t go quite as planned—for a number of reasons—the girls manage to find some common ground. Told in then-and-now narratives that are easily discernable in the graphic format, Telgemeier’s tale is laugh-out-loud funny (especially the story about the snake incident) and quietly serious all at once. Her rounded, buoyant art coupled with a masterful capacity for facial expressions complements the writing perfectly. Fans of her previous books Smile (2010) and Drama (2012) shouldn’t miss this one; it’s a winner.

A wonderfully charming tale of family and sisters that anyone can bond with. (Graphic memoir. 7-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-54059-9

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2014

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NIGHTBIRD

There’s a monster in Sidwell, Massachusetts, that can only be seen at night or, as Twig reveals, if passersby are near her house.

It’s her older brother, James, born with wings just like every male in the Fowler line for the last 200 years. They were cursed by the Witch of Sidwell, left brokenhearted by their forebear Lowell Fowler. Twig and James are tired of the secret and self-imposed isolation. Lonely Twig narrates, bringing the small town and its characters to life, intertwining events present and past, and describing the effects of the spell on her fractured family’s daily life. Longing for some normalcy and companionship, she befriends new-neighbor Julia while James falls in love with Julia’s sister, Agate—only to learn they are descendants of the Witch. James and Agate seem as star-crossed as their ancestors, especially when the townspeople attribute a spate of petty thefts and graffiti protesting the development of the woods to the monster and launch a hunt. The mix of romance and magic is irresistible and the tension, compelling. With the help of friends and through a series of self-realizations and discoveries, Twig grows more self-assured. She is certain she knows how to change the curse. In so doing, Twig not only changes James’ fate, but her own, for the first time feeling the fullness of family, friends and hope for the future.

Enchanting. (Magical realism. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-38958-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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