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Jacob's New Dress

Jacob's New Dress

4.5 2
by Sarah Hoffman, Ian Hoffman, Chris Case (Illustrator)

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Jacob loves playing dress-up, when he can be anything he wants to be. Some kids at school say he can't wear "girl" clothes, but Jacob wants to wear a dress to school. Can he convince his parents to let him wear what he wants? This heartwarming story speaks to the unique challenges faced by boys who don't identify with traditional gender roles.


Jacob loves playing dress-up, when he can be anything he wants to be. Some kids at school say he can't wear "girl" clothes, but Jacob wants to wear a dress to school. Can he convince his parents to let him wear what he wants? This heartwarming story speaks to the unique challenges faced by boys who don't identify with traditional gender roles.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
“Jacob, why do you always wear the girl clothes?” a schoolmate asks the gender nonconforming hero in the classroom dress-up corner. It’s a question that Jacob’s parents struggle with, as well. When the boy asks his mother to help make a “real dress” after bullies tear off a togalike outfit he’s improvised from a bath towel, Mom takes a long time to answer. “The longer she didn’t answer, the less Jacob could breathe.” But Mom and Dad believe that “There are all sorts of ways to be a boy,” and they offer support that’s low-key, emotionally authentic, and unwavering (“Well, it’s not what I would wear, but you look great,” says Dad, who has to take his own long pause before answering). The Hoffmans, whose experience as parents inspired the story, and Case (Sophie and the Next-Door Monsters)—who contributes thoughtful, down-to-earth cartoons of home and school—have created an ideal companion for families and educators: upbeat yet realistic, astute about peer dynamics, and blessedly lacking in a sermonizing Big Moment. Ages 4–7. Illustrator’s agent: the Herman Agency. (Mar.)
Children's Literature - Barbara L. Talcroft
Meet Jacob, an adorable blond preschooler, who likes to dress up and prefers to be the Princess. Best friend Emily is perfectly fine with his choice, but Christopher, sporting a dinosaur outfit, scowls and complains that Jacob’s wearing “girl clothes.” At home, Jacob’s mother suggests he play in his Halloween witch’s gown, which Jacob loves, but he really wants a dress he can wear to school. His mother looks bemused. When he turns up next morning in a dress he has made from a towel, his father calmly, but firmly, disapproves, though Mom handles the dilemma sensitively. So does his teacher, but mean Christopher snatches the dress away at recess, making Jacob cry. (Interestingly, most of the children appear to be neutral on the subject.) Jacob does get his school dress—purple and white—with help from his mother and her sewing machine; next morning, his father tactfully admires it. Case is especially adept at capturing emotions in his vivid cartoon-style illustrations. He paints Jacob and Emily at school (both in purple and white), merrily playing on monkey bars and a slide, batting a tetherball, and riding a carousel, their happiness emphasized by crayon-bright backgrounds. At circle time, when Jacob describes making the dress, only stubborn Christopher is not listening with interest and a smile. On the playground, Jacob asserts his pride in the dress and his intention to wear it, as he gleefully sprints away, tagging Christopher “it.” According to the authors, who have a gender-nonconforming son, Jacob was exceptionally lucky in his understanding parents, teacher, and supportive friends; other non-conforming boys are often “stigmatized for their differences.” Adults with questions might read online Ruth Padawer’s informative article, “What’s So Bad about a Boy Who Wants to Wear a Dress?” (New York Times Magazine, August 8, 2012). Reviewer: Barbara L. Talcroft; Ages 4 to 7.
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 2—Jacob likes to play dress up with his friend Emily, but he prefers to pretend that he is a princess rather than a knight, firefighter, or policeman. The boys in his class tease him and wonder why he wears dresses. His teacher explains that "Jacob wears what he's comfortable in. Just like you do. Not very long ago little girls couldn't wear pants. Can you imagine that?" Jacob returns home from school to tell his mother that one of his classmates says that boys can't wear dresses. His parents support him as he makes his own dress with his mother's help, and she shares with him that "there are all sorts of ways to be a boy." An author's note explains how parents, educators, and counselors can make a difference in the lives of gender-nonconforming children. The warm cartoon illustrations convey the mood well and offer readers visual clues to the cruelty, teasing, and struggle with self-acceptance that can occur when children are different from their peers. Purchase this one to encourage discussions of gender, identity, and self-confidence.—Melissa Smith, Royal Oak Public Library, MI
Kirkus Reviews
In a warmly illustrated picture book meant to comfort both boys who are gender-nonconforming and their parents, young Jacob asks his mom for a dress to wear to school. At first, Jacob's interest in wearing dresses is limited to playing dress-up. When his classmate Christopher tells him he ought to wear boys' clothes instead, Jacob's friend Emily answers with age-appropriate defenses ("Christopher, stop telling us what to do"). Jacob's mom hesitates when Jacob expresses interest in wearing a dress as school clothes, but eventually, both she and Jacob's dad agree to it. The segments with Jacob's mom and dad seem aimed at parents as much as at children. Jacob's mom's look of concern when he first asks about the dress is poignant, and his dad's words of acceptance ("Well, it's not what I would wear, but you look great") could easily serve as a model for fathers in similar positions. What rings less true is the story's rosy end. Faced with Christopher's bullying comments and other kids' laughter, Jacob is so buoyed by his new dress that he stands up to Christopher himself, then sprints triumphantly across the playground, "his dress spreading out like wings." Hopeful and affirming, but children familiar with bullying may find the conclusion too simple. (afterword, authors' note) (Picture book. 4-8)

Product Details

Whitman, Albert & Company
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
8.10(w) x 10.10(h) x 0.50(d)
AD400L (what's this?)
Age Range:
4 - 7 Years

Meet the Author

Sarah Hoffman has a son who loves pink and a girl who loves yellow. She has written on the topic of gender non-conforming children for Cookie, Salon, Babble, and the San Francisco Chronicle. She lives in San Francisco, California with her husband and children. www.sarahhoffmanwriter.com

Ian Hoffman and his wife, Sarah, are parents of a son who loves pink and a girl who loves yellow. They live in San Francisco, California.

Chris Case received BFA and MFA degrees in Illustration from the University of Arizona in Tucson. He is the illustrator of Sophie and the Next-Door Monsters. He lives in Eugene, Oregon.

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Jacob's New Dress 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a fantastic book for parents interested in introducing their children to the idea that *all* people are worthy of love and respect. and in all clothes! The authors have taken a thoughtful and careful approach to issues that can become complex or contentious, and simplified a loving message for children. Also a great book for adults!  Buy one for your closest friend for a powerful message about love and acceptance!
CatsInSpace More than 1 year ago
The title of this book caught my attention when I saw it on the shelf at the library. I used to teach 2-3 year olds, and the boys in my class loved wearing dresses for make believe time. I’m not sure how their parents felt about it, but it’s all part of exploring their world. When I saw “Jacob’s New Dress,” I thought, Ooo, a picture book about boys who like to dress like girls! So I read the story and found a unique and relevant tale that takes a nurturing and non-judgmental look at a boy who likes to wear dresses. Jacob is a preschool boy who loves to play dress-up with his friends. Though he could dress up as anything, including the more traditional boy costumes of a dragon, firefighter, or cowboy, he chooses a “sparkly pink dress” and a crown. His classmate, Christopher, has a problem with this and asks Jacob, “Why do you always wear the girl clothes?”  Luckily for Jacob, he has an understanding teacher, Ms. Wilson, who steps in and says Jacob can use his imagination to dress up however he wants. When Jacob gets home, he talks to his mom and dad about wearing dresses. The next day Jacob creates a dress for himself out of a towel and belt, and his mother reluctantly lets him wear it to school. But Jacob gets teased again. When he tries to talk to his mom about it, he feels like he can’t breathe waiting to see what she will say. His mom tells him, “There are all sorts of ways to be a boy,” and then helps him make his own real dress to wear whenever he wants. Jacob’s New Dress tackles the issue of gender nonconformity in a realistic way. The authors don’t shy away from the fact that Jacob gets teased for his choices, but they surround him with adults who are able to keep an open mind and be supportive. The authors of the book have their own gender-nonconforming son, Sam, and their expertise in the subject matter shines through and feels real. Jacob’s New Dress shares an important story that many children could probably relate to, whether they dress up sometimes just for fun or every day. This book would be well-suited to being read in a classroom setting where the teacher could talk to the children about the issues raised in it.