By Terri Schlichenmeyer, Jan. 15, 2015.

I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel & Jazz Jennings Pictures by Shelagh. McNicholas Penguin Dial, 2014 | $17.99.

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 I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel & Jazz Jennings, 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 her “favorite things.” She likes to dance, 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, which 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” and their parents made Jazz wear boy clothes 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 artist Shelagh 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 Jessica Herthel, makes this story glow with a personal, upbeat and spirited touch that’s relatable for all children.

Meant for ages 4 through 8, 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 must-read one-of-a-kind tale.

Keep reading Show less
Photo courtesy of The Dinah

The Dinah


Keep reading Show less
Photo courtesy of Michael Feinstein.

Michael Feinstein


Keep reading Show less
Gilles Toucas

Michael Feinstein will commemorate Judy Garland’s life on March 20 at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.


Keep reading Show less