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JACOB'S NEW DRESS by Ian Hoffman


by Ian Hoffman ; Sarah Hoffman ; illustrated by Chris Case

Age Range: 4 - 8

Pub Date: March 1st, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-8075-6373-1
Publisher: Whitman

In a warmly illustrated picture book meant to comfort both boys who are gender-nonconforming and their parents, young Jacob asks his mom for a dress to wear to school.

At first, Jacob’s interest in wearing dresses is limited to playing dress-up. When his classmate Christopher tells him he ought to wear boys’ clothes instead, Jacob’s friend Emily answers with age-appropriate defenses (“Christopher, stop telling us what to do”). Jacob’s mom hesitates when Jacob expresses interest in wearing a dress as school clothes, but eventually, both she and Jacob’s dad agree to it. The segments with Jacob’s mom and dad seem aimed at parents as much as at children. Jacob’s mom’s look of concern when he first asks about the dress is poignant, and his dad’s words of acceptance (“Well, it’s not what I would wear, but you look great”) could easily serve as a model for fathers in similar positions. What rings less true is the story’s rosy end. Faced with Christopher’s bullying comments and other kids’ laughter, Jacob is so buoyed by his new dress that he stands up to Christopher himself, then sprints triumphantly across the playground, “his dress spreading out like wings.”

Hopeful and affirming, but children familiar with bullying may find the conclusion too simple. (afterword, authors’ note) (Picture book. 4-8)