Penny Candy Bks. Sept. 2019. 52p. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9780999658437.
Gr 1-3–Nine-year-old Sam knows he’s a boy but everyone else thinks he’s a girl. He first tells his 11-year-old sister who encourages him to tell his parents. When he does, they are immediately accepting, and he is known as Sam at home and at school. “After that Sam was Sam all the time, to everyone.” If kids whisper about him or call him the wrong name and Sam gets upset, he either closes his eyes and feels, “the dreams and spirit and laughter all rumbling around in his belly,” or his sister tickles and hugs him. The illustrations present Sam’s family with light brown skin, and his school’s student population is shown as diverse with a variety of skin colors and clothing that expresses religious observance. Sam’s teacher is a bearded and bespectacled black man who looks quite a bit like the illustrator’s bio photo.
VERDICT Although oversimplified, Sam’s transgender coming out story is a welcome one for classrooms and libraries looking for #OwnVoices LQBTQIA+ books for young readers. For a more nuanced picture book about being true to one’s authentic self, consider Michael Hall’s Red: A Crayon’s Story.

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