B in the World

96p. ebook available. 64th Street. 2014. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9780986329302.
Gr 1–3—B Browning wears his hair long, dresses in his sister's clothes, and loves baking lemon cupcakes. On the first day of second grade, B discovers that instead of the universally admired Mr. J, his teacher will be cruel, candy-hating Ms. Hitchings who refuses to call B by his preferred name or allow him to use his preferred bathroom. A bully arrives who is "bossy and mean" to everyone, particularly B, until auditioning for the same part in the Spring Play improves understanding between them. The story introduces common issues faced by transgender and gender-nonconforming children, but avoids the context of those issues. From choice of bathroom to choice of name, B's preferences are explained in a way that sidesteps the issue of gender. This denial of identity-based motivations undermines the usefulness of the book for gender-nonconforming readers and those seeking to understand their point of view. The cartoon illustrations are appropriate to the intended audience, but the full-page quotes that interrupt the text may pose a challenge for newer readers. Resources on gender and bullying are included in the back matter.
VERDICT Collections seeking to fill a gap in diverse representation for this age group might consider this as an additional purchase. Although in picture book format, Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress (Groundwood, 2014) has more subtlety and authenticity.

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