Friday, September 28, 2018

My Life as a Diamond

Manzer, Jenny. My Life as a Diamond
September 25th 2018 by Orca Book Publishers
E ARC from Netgalley

10-year-old Caz loves to play baseball and is a big Blue Jays fan, so when his family moves to Seattle, one of the first places he goes is the park. There, he meets Hank, who encourages him to join the baseball league. Caz ends up being on the Redburn Ravens team with Hank but also Kyle, who isn't very nice. Since Caz has a big secret to hide, he doesn't want to take the chances of angering any of his teammates. Back in Toronto, Caz was Cassie. Cassie had always felt like a boy, and even mentioned this to his best friend, who didn't seem all that bothered. But things didn't go well, and the family decided to relocate. Caz's father and mother are fairly supportive, and his Nana tells him that "pressure makes diamonds" and that he will do fine. It's nice to be able to live his life, play baseball (which is super important) and not have to worry about having to explain why he was born female but doesn't feel that way now, but he knows that it won't last forever. Eventually, people find out about his ball career in Toronto, there have to be explanations, but things go fairly smoothly.
Strengths: The author put a lot of research into this and had lots of sensitivity readers, and was successful in having an elementary and middle grade appropriate transgender story. The inclusion of lots of baseball is a big plus, and will encourage readers to pick up the book. While Caz has just the one very bad experience, his feelings and issues with various people in his life are not sugar coated. Some people are jerks, some of the people who count the most care the least about what gender he is.  Unlike some of the books I have read on this topic, Caz doesn't really give any reasons for feeling like he is male. That's just the way it is. This seems more believable than the books about children born boys who really like long hair and girls' clothing-- those just leave me with a very negative feeling about gender stereotypes in our society. Well done.
Weaknesses: Caz' age makes sense-- he's too young to worry quite yet about puberty. Still, middle school students sometimes don't want to read about younger students. I do have a growing number of readers interested in LGTBQ+ books, and I'm not sure how well they will like the baseball theme, but I do think it is an excellent way to go.
What I really think: My readers interested in LGTBQ+ topics (who are 99% female identified) will definitely pick this up. I'll definitely purchase, and I do try to get students to read these books, but some just do not want to. Luckily, I haven't had any challenges on the books in my collection, which is nice. I hold LGTBQ+ books to the same standards as the other books, so all of the ones I have are middle grade friendly.

Ms. Yingling

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