Book Review: Introducing Teddy

TITLE: Introducing Teddy: A gentle story about gender and friendship
AUTHOR: Jessica Walton
ILLUSTRATOR: Dougal MacPherson
FORMAT: Hardback
PUBLISHED: 2016

 

This book just appeared at work one day, and I was intrigued, so I read it.

Basically, Teddy is trans and this is the coming out story.
In the beginning of the story, Teddy is very sad.  Erroll, Teddy’s owner, asks what’s wrong and is told “Please don’t make fun of me.  I don’t want to be Thomas any more, I want to be Tilly!”  And Errol says “OKAY!” and thus the teddy switches his bow tie into her hairbow and they go off to play with other friends.  “Thomas would like you to call her Tilly now.”  “Okay”  And that’s it.

I get that this book is designed for little little kids.  But remember that I spend my days with a four-year-old.  So I just kinda stared at it for a while and blinked.  I don’t know what I think about this book.  I know that the author* wanted a simple book for little kids, but a lot of people use books to open up conversation and I’m worried that this is too over simplistic.  In the same tone that a kid will tell you to call them Mallory when their name is really Valerie or “When I grow up, I want to be a [something ridiculous]!…” and then change their mind after lunch, we’re told “hey, look, this is me now,” and it doesn’t have as much weight as it should as a serious issue.

So, really, this is more about acceptance than about actual trans* issues.  Your friend is telling you this is how things are, and you’re okay with it because you’re their friend.  As adults, we know that this isn’t as simple as it is, but we as adults also understand that the world is not so black and white as a child understands it to be.

 

I am torn on this rating.  I absolutely love that the point of this story was “just please love me for me, I’m very fragile” because I believe that all of us are that to some extent.  It was very sweet and simple, and I believe that that message will get through.
That said though, as far as transgender is concerned, this is only a book about accepting somebody that has transitioned.  It doesn’t explain anything about it whatsoever, so I’m not really sure how useful a tool this is, but it was okay.  Also, the illustrations were adorable.  When “Thomas” was sitting there looking sad because “I’m afraid you won’t like me if I tell you…”  I really felt for the bear.    Anyway, Illustrations are a solid 4.  The book is more of a 3 for my liking.

 

 

*The author is a m to f trans* herself.  Also an amputee.  Read her bio on the book jacket.  She’s got an interesting life.

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Book Review – Being Jazz

TITLE: Being Jazz: My life as a (Transgender) teen
AUTHOR: Jazz Jennings
FORMAT: Hardback
PUBLISHED: 2016

For those who don’t know, Jazz Jennings first hit America’s psyche as the 4-year-old kid who knew he was really a she. Since that moment 10+ years ago, Jazz has gained a bit more fame, and now has a children’s book and a television show, both titled I Am Jazz, and a slew of awards for being things like “amazing” and “wonderful” and “courageous” and whatever else in her quest to be an advocate for trans issues.

I wanted to read the book to understand better.

It’s listed as a memoir, published by a children’s publisher, and, at least in my library, shelved in the very odd…genre?… of YA Non-Fiction.
I don’t know what I thought I was expecting, but chances are that I wanted a look at actual trans issues.
What I got was…not that.

First of all, a then 14-year-old makes for a really boring memoir subject. I mean, take away the trans stuff, and all you have is soccer and good grades. And the book mostly glossed past all of that.

And it totally glossed over a lot of the trans stuff too. “Hey, my parents had to deal with me not being able to play soccer, but I still got to practice with the team, so at least I had that…” Um.
Somewhere about halfway through this book it dawned on me why I dislike the show so much, and it’s criticism here, too… Nothing ever is bad or hard or whatever. I mean, even when something *was* going wrong, she’d gloss over it like it was a little footnote. “My parents never told me, so everything was wonderful!”

Actually, on that note, it glossed over most stuff period. She used the phrase “chick with a dick” twice, but couldn’t actually use words to describe body parts when she talked about herself. She talked about her “D” the same way Anastasia Steele talks about her “sex”. (That is to say, stupidly.)

Come on. I know you’re not going to get the most amazing story ever told from a kid, but there are plenty of bios and memoirs about kids that were interesting to read (Ryan White, for example). This one was a snooze. The only thing that saved me from falling asleep was that it read so fast because Jazz herself is the one that wrote it.

Another criticism I have is that Jazz sort of assumed the only people that would ever read the memoir were in a trans world somehow. A lot of the chapters start off as stories but then near the end of the chapter, the fourth wall comes down and there’s a part where Jazz says something like “Hey, reader, if you need help, you should look at the appendix”…

So, again, a book I had high hopes for that ended up pretty much being crap. I mean, I don’t see a lot of purpose to the book and it’s totally fluff. Even the Q&As at the end of the book with her family seemed like crap. In the interview with her brothers, we basically get “We hate being lumped together as twins” (irony – theirs was the only interview with two people at once) and “She got to meet the president and we didn’t, but it’s okay!”

Since it’s like the only resource out there for trans kids, I should probably cut it a little slack, but the fact that there’s little resource here and just a fake sense of perfect rainbows, I’m giving it a 2 out of 5. Maybe the book will help somebody who is trans, but for anyone who isn’t, there’s nothing helpful here.

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