Written by: Erica Silverman
Illustrated by: Holly Hatam
For ages: 4-8 years
Topics Covered: Family, Acceptance, Trans Experience, Transgender Youth.
Summary: Big sister Susan loves her little sibling Jackie, more than anything. Susan loves making Jackie giggle, and dreams about all of the fun things they’ll do together growing up. When Jackie becomes a little older, the two children couldn’t be more different. Jackie loves superheroes, mud puddle jumping, and running around. Jackie cries when dresses are given as presents, and Susan gets upset when Jackie wants to wear a necktie. The children’s mother gently reminds that “we wear what feels right” and doesn’t shame either child. One day, the family goes to the park and Jackie makes a new friend. When parting ways awhile later the child calls out “bye Jack!” and Susan questions this. Jackie gets very upset and starts yelling, and everybody walks home quietly. When the two kids’ mom gives them haircuts, Susan goes first. She wants her hair long, but Jackie urges their mother to keep cutting more and more hair off until Susan yells that Jackie looks like a boy. “I am a boy!” says Jackie, and their mother is quiet, finally recognizing that Jackie has been telling them something important for a long time. Jackie asks Susan to call him Jack, and Susan begins to cry, saying she doesn’t want a brother, she wants a sister. Susan goes to sit alone in her tent to think things over, and brings art supplies with her. She draw two pictures-one of Jackie and one of Jack. Susan notices that both pictures have the same eyes and the same smile. She begins to feel better, thinking “it’s ok, either way”. Susan opens the tent to find Jack, and they begin to play. The book ends almost the same the way it began, by stating that Susan’s brother Jack has the best giggle.
This book is great for young children, to explain the idea of transgender. This term is not used within the book, it is mores to introduce young children to the idea that a person can express themselves how they wish. There’s an emphasis on family acceptance and love, with Jack’s parents being supportive from the beginning. Depending on the child’s level of knowledge about the trans experience, this book would be good for elementary school aged children although Jack is fairly young when he begins to socially transition.
- Do you like to do the things Susan does, or Jack? Maybe a combination of both?
- Why do you think it was important for Jack to make his family understand he didn’t like being seen as a girl?
- Why do you think Susan decides it’s ok to have either a brother or a sister?
Continuing the Conversation:
- What makes you feel most like yourself? Draw a picture of you where you feel most comfortable, maybe it’s in the woods wearing a dance costume, or on top of a slide with a baseball glove. Everyone deserves to feel comfortable with themselves, and that begins with allowing everyone to like and play with what they like.
- Everyone is different. Some people were born in the wrong body, and some were born in the right one. What matters is that we accept others. What can you do as a class that will let people who come into your classroom know that they are safe to express themselves? Consider making a poster, writing a letter, or inviting other classrooms to do this activity with you to make your school a safe space for everyone.
About the Author & the Illustrator:
Erica Silverman is the author of several books including Big Pumpkin; When the Chickens Went on Strike, which was a Sydney Taylor Honor book; and Sholom’s Treasure, which won the Sydney Taylor Award and was a runner-up for the National Jewish Book Award. Her books have received the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Award, the California Young Reader Medal, ABA Pick of the List, and the first book in her early-reader series Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa won the Theodore Seuss Geisel Honor. She lives in Los Angeles, California. Visit her at www.ericasilverman.com.
Holly Hatam’s a girl that sometimes wears something pink and sparkly and sometimes dons capes and fights dragons. Some days she’s moody, but other days she shakes her booty. Some days her heart may seek wild adventures, but other days she just wants to be a couch potato. She is a picture book maker, greeting card designer, and a textile engineer. She is also the #1 New York Times Bestselling illustrator of Dear Girl. Her other books include, What Matters, Tree Song, Maxine the Maker, Jack (Not Jackie) and The Acadia Files. Holly lives in Whitby, Ontario with her weird husband and even weirder son. But that’s ok, because weird is a side effect of awesome.