I’m Not a Girl – written by Maddox Lyons and Jessica Verdi, illustrated by Dana Simpson

  I’m Not a Girl – written by Maddox Lyons and Jessica Verdi, illustrated by Dana Simpson, Roaring Brook Press, 9780374310684, 2020

Format: Hardcover

Rating:  1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

Genre: Picture Book

What did you like about the book? This book’s purpose is to explain to a young child what it means and feels like to be transgender, and it does so very well. The boy character knows that he isn’t a girl, despite his family and friends not understanding. He and a friend talk about what a tomboy is, but he still doesn’t feel that fits him. Eventually two new friends who have a cousin who is transgender explain what it means. This new language and understanding allows the boy to talk with his family, who finally understand and are very accepting. The story is straightforward and easily accessible to young readers, and can act as a model for how to discuss gender identity with young children. Additional information and resources at the end will support families and other adults in these conversations, and include many transgender role models to learn more about, as well as recommendations for both children’s books and adult books to learn more. Rachel Lyons includes a note about her experience raising Maddox, who is transgender, and Dana Simpson includes an illustrator’s note about her experience as a transgender woman, making the story even more personal. The illustrations show diverse characters in school and around the neighborhood. The boy’s facial expressions combined with many gender-normative materials in the backgrounds add to the story, and it is easy to see the change in his emotions through the illustrations. 

Anything you did not like about the book. The boy’s experience of being transgender is the sole focus of this book, and I would love to see future books from this team that follow more of a story that includes young transgender children. 

To whom would you recommend this book? I would especially recommend this to families with a child who may be gender nonconforming, transgender, or have questions about gender identity. I would also recommend it to children and families who know someone who is gender non-conforning or transgender to better understand it. Read-alike with I am Jazz (Herthel and Jennings) and It Feels Good to Be Yourself: A Book About Gender Identity (Thorn). 

Who should buy this book? Elementary school librarians, public librarians, school/child counselors

Where would you shelve it? Picture books

Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Sarah Bickel, Greenlodge Elementary School, Dedham Massachusetts

Date of review: August 26, 2020

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