Jacob’s New Dress

Written by: Sarah and Ian Hoffman

Illustrated by: Chris Case

For Ages: 4-8 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Self-Expression, Acceptance, Individuality, Social-Emotional Learning, Family.

Summary: Jacob loves to dress up in princess dresses, and does so in the Dramatic Play area in his classroom. He wants to wear some of his dress-up clothes to school, but his mother says they would get dirty.  Jacob builds himself a nest of towels and thinks hard about what he could wear to school that wouldn’t get dirty, a school dress.  The next morning, Jacob comes downstairs wearing a dress made out of a towel.  Jacob’s mother tells him put on a shirt and shorts underneath his “dress-thing” and they go to school.  Jacob’s friend Emily loves Jacob’s dress-thing, but another student in the class named Christopher pulls it off during recess and Jacob begins to cry.  At home, Jacob asks his mother to help him make a real dress.  After a long silence, his mother agrees and together they get out the sewing machine. The next day at school, Jacob and Emily run around gleefully and play on the playground.  Jacob shares that he used a sewing machine to make the dress, but Christopher tells the class that he asked his dad and his dad says boys don’t wear dresses. At recess, Christopher starts a game of tag that’s boys vs girls and tells Jacob he has to be on the girls team. Jacob’s dress feels like a cozy coat of armor as he rises above the teasing, and tags Christopher “it”.

This book realistically addresses potential bullying that might arise for children dressing outside of their assigned sex. There are more supporters of Jacob than naysayers, but the reader can tell his mother is hesitant to allow him the freedom of dress her desires outside of his home. The book is a fantastic way to begin learning about self-expression and individuality in the early childhood classroom.

Reflection Questions:

  • Do you think anyone can wear a dress?
  • How do you think Jacob feels when Christopher keeps making fun of what he wears?
  • How is Emily a good friend to Jacob in the story?
  • When was a time someone was a good friend to you?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Design the perfect cozy suit of armor for yourself! What would it look like, and why does it make you feel brave and strong?
  • Talk as a class why it’s not ok to tell people what they can and can’t wear.  How can you make your classroom a safe place for people to express themselves?

About the Author & the Illustrator:

Sarah and Ian Hoffman are the parents of a pink boy and a girl whose favorite color is yellow. Sarah writes for national magazines, newspapers, and radio, and speaks publicly about raising her gender-nonconforming son. Ian writes children’s books. They use pseudonyms to protect the safety of their family.

Chris Case received BFA and MFA degrees in Illustration from the University of Arizona in Tucson. He is the illustrator of Sophie and the Next-Door Monsters. He lives in Oregon.

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