An elementary school principal in Minnesota angered parents after recommending a book about a transgender toddler as a summer reading for children in grades K-2.
Stacey DeCorsey, the principal of Excelsior Elementary School in Minnetonka, posted on the school’s Facebook page with recommendations for summer reading for kids as young as 5. One of the books, Jack (Not Jackie), a book about gender identity, was described by DeCorsey as a “phenomenal read.” The principal also expressed her excitement for the book to appear on the “shelves of the school media center this fall.”
Minnesota elementary principal promoted the book “Jack Not Jackie” as summer reading for K-2 grades.
The book is about a toddler becoming transgender and cross-dressing. pic.twitter.com/FB57rnxgSg
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The “children’s” book, titled Jack (Not Jackie) is about a toddler who decides they want to be a boy instead of a girl because “she wants to play with mud” and “doesn’t like dresses or fairies.” The story is told from the perspective of the older sister, Susan, who likes “playing forest fairies and explorers,” but is frustrated when her little sister prefers to play with bugs and mud.
The book description reads,
“In this heartwarming picture book, a big sister realizes that her little sister, Jackie, doesn’t like dresses or fairies — she likes ties and bugs! Will she and her family be able to accept that Jackie identifies more as ‘Jack’?”
“She wants to play with mud and be a super bug! Jackie also doesn’t like dresses or her long hair, and she would rather be called Jack … Readers will love this sweet story about change and acceptance.”
The author, Erica Silverman, offers an additional description of this book:
“Susan dreams of playing forest fairies and explorers with a little sister. She loves to hear her baby sibling giggle. However, as the baby grows up, Susan struggles to accept their differences in self-expression. Despite their mother’s gentle admonition to let her sibling be, Susan thinks it’s wrong that the person she sees as a sister wants to wear clothes from the boys’ section. After her sibling asks for a short haircut, she feels betrayed when Jack (not Jackie) tells the family he’s Susan’s brother. Remembering how much she loved Jack as a baby helps Susan accept the new transition. Narrated in first person, the story focuses on the feelings of the cisgender sister of a transgender boy. For most of the text, Susan calls her brother “Jackie” and uses she/her pronouns to refer to him. While Susan struggles, their mother offers refreshing acceptance throughout the story with reassurances such as “We wear what feels right.” The characters adhere to gender stereotypes, but the author’s note offers a less binary discussion of gender identity. Illustrations that combine digital line drawing and realistic textures accompany the text and depict Susan, Jack, and their parents as white.”
The book concludes with Susan’s acceptance of her sister Jackie becoming a brother named “Jack.”
Jack (Not Jackie) was published by Bonnier Publishing USA and GLAAD, a partnership that was formed specifically to release children’s books about the LGBTQ community. This book is their second release, following a book for children ages 3-6 titled Prince & Knight, which is a story about a young prince who falls in love with a knight.
Upon DeCorsey’s release of this video on the elementary school’s Facebook page, it was met with enough backlash from parents that the original post was deleted and shortly replaced with an apology video from DeCorsey.
In the second video, DeCorsey said, “I want to apologize if anyone felt uncomfortable with my book suggestions. One of the books I spoke about specifically, which has struck a nerve in our community, was intended to support our transgender students who are often overlooked and misunderstood in schools.”
“Please know this is not a required reading for students,” added DeCorsey. “It was simply meant to be a suggestion for families who are looking for these types of resources.”
Plenty of young girls don’t like wearing dresses or playing with dolls, instead choosing to play in the mud. Some girls do both. Either way, the female stereotypes perpetuated in this children’s book could be damaging to toddlers who don’t conform to a stereotypical “girl,” leaving them necessarily confused in their identity.