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BORN READY by Jodie Patterson Kirkus Star


The True Story of a Boy Named Penelope

by Jodie Patterson ; illustrated by Charnelle Pinkney Barlow

Pub Date: April 20th, 2021
ISBN: 978-0-593-12363-8
Publisher: Crown

A Black transgender boy shares his identity and competes in a karate tournament with the encouragement of his family in this picture-book biography.

Penelope knows who he is and what he likes even if his family is too busy to notice him. He stomps through the house, cuts in line, and pounds his fists so they will hear, see, and feel his anger that everyone thinks he’s a girl. When his mom stops to listen, he tells her about his gender and helps her understand that he doesn’t just feel like a boy, he is one. With his family’s support behind him and the strength of his own determination to never give up, Penelope comes out at school and faces a new challenge: competing in a karate tournament. First-person narration centers Penelope’s feelings and perspective in every stage of his story. Warmth and pride in identity radiate from the pages, brightened by the expressive, lively illustrations. The adults in Penelope’s life model care by encouraging him to speak for himself and listening to him when he does. One thing he speaks up about is that he likes his name: Penelope. Perseverance also stands out as a significant theme within the narrative, with emphasis placed on Penelope’s diligent practice and refusal to quit leading up to his victory. This representation of a Black family and transgender child (author Patterson is Penelope’s mother) shines with joy and affirmation. (Since the creation of this book, the author's son has changed his name to Penel.) (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 50.4% of actual size)

A triumphant declaration of love and identity.

(Picture book/biography. 4-7)