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‘I Am Jazz’ shares transgender challenges in kid-friendly story

You are a one-of-a-kind kid.

There’s nobody else like you. Nobody has eyes like yours, or fingers like yours or ears that fold like yours. You think for yourself, have your own likes and hates, and people love you just the way you are.

In the new book “I Am Jazz” by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, with pictures by Shelagh McNicholas, you’ll read about a girl who’s just like other girls … only different.

Jazz is a little girl who loves the color pink. It’s been that way for as long as she can remember; she also loves silver and green, maybe because they’re sort of mermaid colors and Jazz loves mermaids, too.

Like a lot of girls, Jazz spends her days doing “favorite things.” She likes to dance and sing and pretend that she’s someone famous. She draws, plays soccer, swims, and she loves makeup and dress-up. But when Jazz was a very little kid, there were people who didn’t want her to do any of those things.

That’s because Jazz has “a girl brain but a boy body.” She’s transgender, and she was born just like that.

For sure, that caused a lot of confusion when Jazz was small because her family didn’t understand. Though she looked like a boy, she had to remind them that she was really a girl inside and reminding made her sad.

Her brothers said that pink and mermaids were “girl stuff.” Her sister laughed when Jazz talked about “girl thoughts.” Their parents made Jazz wear boy clothes (ugh!) until they saw a new doctor. The doctor said that Jazz was transgender — and since Jazz’s parents love Jazz “no matter what,” they decided to let her be herself, to wear pretty pink clothes and play with the toys she liked.

That wasn’t an easy thing for others to accept at first, but it’s getting better. Some people are understanding, while some kids still tease Jazz and call her names — but then she remembers that those are the ones who don’t really know her very well. Those are the kids who can’t see the important parts of a person. They’re kids who can’t understand different, and “different is special!”

I really like this book. I like its perky, friendly cover and the kid-magnet colors that McNicholas uses. I like the basic premise and the answers it offers curious kids, parents and teachers.

Those are the things that struck me immediately about it. Looking deeper, though, I discovered what truly makes “I Am Jazz” so valuable: it’s a unique, no-secrets tale written in a kid-friendly, easy-to-grasp, matter-of-fact way, told in part by author Jazz Jennings herself. That, with co-author Herthel, makes this story glow with a personal, upbeat and spirited touch that’s relatable for all children.

Meant for 4- to 8-year-olds, I think kids up to age 10 could very much appreciate this book, especially if there’s a transgender child in their school. For them — and for any adult who may need it — “I Am Jazz” is a one-of-a-kind tale.

View publishes Terri Schlichenmeyer’s reviews of books for children and teens weekly.

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