"Two boys were at the sinks.
They stared at Jacob standing in the doorway.
Jacob knew what that look meant.
He turned and ran out."
This is a companion book to Jacob's New Dress by the same authors, parents of Sam. This is the first part of their authors' note.
"When our son Sam was in kindergarten, he had waist-length blond hair and a gentle smile. His favorite outfit was a pink dress. Everyone who met him assumed he was a girl, and he didn’t mind.
Sam’s interests were a mix of traditional 'girl' things like ballet, make-believe, and art, mixed with traditional 'boy' things like knights, castles, and dinosaurs. Clinically, children like Sam are called gender-nonconforming; we liked to call him a pink boy — the male equivalent of a tomboy."
Why is it okay for a girl to be a tomboy but wrong for a boy to be a pink boy? I'd prefer a better term, but any alternatives seem to be pejorative. Nancy-boy, sissy-boy, and such.
Sam was lucky not only with parents but with an understanding teacher. That's fine, as far as it goes, and this book is the same. A sympathetic teacher and a bit of humour save the day when Jacob and Sophie are teased or bullied for using the 'wrong' bathrooms.
1. Picture of Jacob (green dress) and Sophie (checked shirt) looking at bathroom door signs.
Both children are scared out of the bathrooms so don't use them. Later, as the teacher notices them getting antsy, she finds out what happened. Good woman that she is, she gives the class the task of figuring out what to do.
2. Picture of Ms. Reeves and her sketches of boys and girls.
The kids know instantly which is which, who's who, because the boy has pants and a tee-shirt and the girl has a dress and long hair. Too easy!
OK, everybody stand by the picture that looks like you. Then the kids realise that some of the boys have long hair, some of the girls are wearing pants, and. . . you get the idea.
3. Picture of Ms. Reeves and a colourful bunch of kids (and don't you love her own outfit? Great stockings!)
The kids decide to make their own bathroom signs instead of boy/girl signs. YAY for Ms. Reeves! Anyone who doesn't fit whatever the locally acceptable style/fashion/preconceived notion of normal is will always have trouble, but the more gender-neutral and ability-neutral bathrooms we have around the world, the better.
The old long-drop on the farm didn't care who used it!
It's a delightful little book, and while Jacob and Sophie will still have trouble using bathrooms with older kids or in public places, this is a start.
For the nay-sayers and doubters who say "back in my day. . . ", I will add that back in my day, we rarely saw anything much out of the norm in any way. Kids with Down Syndrome were hidden away, people with mental challenges were pretty much locked up, and kids in wheelchairs went to "special schools". As for gender issues, even straight gays, if I can put it that way, stayed well and truly in the closet, hidden right in the back.
I'm all for diversity, which is a just as well, since there's so much of it! :)
Thanks to NetGalley and the American Psychological Association for the review copy of this book. I imagine the first one is equally good.
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