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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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it.

YOUR BABY'S FIRST WORD WILL BE DADA

A succession of animal dads do their best to teach their young to say “Dada” in this picture-book vehicle for Fallon.

A grumpy bull says, “DADA!”; his calf moos back. A sad-looking ram insists, “DADA!”; his lamb baas back. A duck, a bee, a dog, a rabbit, a cat, a mouse, a donkey, a pig, a frog, a rooster, and a horse all fail similarly, spread by spread. A final two-spread sequence finds all of the animals arrayed across the pages, dads on the verso and children on the recto. All the text prior to this point has been either iterations of “Dada” or animal sounds in dialogue bubbles; here, narrative text states, “Now everybody get in line, let’s say it together one more time….” Upon the turn of the page, the animal dads gaze round-eyed as their young across the gutter all cry, “DADA!” (except the duckling, who says, “quack”). Ordóñez's illustrations have a bland, digital look, compositions hardly varying with the characters, although the pastel-colored backgrounds change. The punch line fails from a design standpoint, as the sudden, single-bubble chorus of “DADA” appears to be emanating from background features rather than the baby animals’ mouths (only some of which, on close inspection, appear to be open). It also fails to be funny.

Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: June 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-00934-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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