Review of the Week: Jacob’s New Dress

JacobHoffman, Sarah. Jacob’s New Dress. Chris Case, Illus. Picture Book. A. Whitman, 2014. [32]p. $16.99. 978-0-8075-6363-1. OUTSTANDING. GRADES PRE-2.
One of Jacob’s favorite things to do at school is to put on dresses in the “dress-up corner.” After wearing a towel-dress that gets taken by a bullying classmate, he gets his mother to help him make a dress of his own that he can wear to school. Doing some of the sewing himself builds Jacob’s confidence and empowers him, while he wears the dress which allows him to ignore the taunts of classmates who insist that he should be on the girls’ team. Kid friendly, though not overly cartoony, illustrations
depict a range of skin colors in Jacob’s classroom, and the tone highlights a general acceptance of what makes us unique rather than a specific, message-heavy didacticism. There is no hint of Jacob being transgendered and identifying as a girl, but instead
he’s a gender-non-conformist—a boy who happens to exhibit behavior that is considered feminine. Jacob’s parents aren’t shown as having an overly rosy, instant acceptance, but more realistically show a hint of not quite knowing how to handle the situation, and Ms. Wilson, Jacob’s teacher, does an appropriate and welcome job addressing one student’s concerns about Jacob wearing a dress by explaining that he wears what he is comfortable
in and that, historically, there was a time when girls couldn’t wear pants. Included is a note from a senior consultant at the Gender and Sexuality Advocacy and Education Program
at the Children’s National Medical Center, as well as one from the authors who note that the book came about because of their own gender-noncomforming son.
Eric Barbus, San Francisco PL

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