When Max starts school, the teacher hesitates to call out the name on the attendance sheet. Something doesn’t seem to fit. Max lets her know the name he wants to be called by—a boy’s name. This begins Max’s journey as he makes new friends and reveals his feelings about his identity to his parents. Written with warmth and sensitivity by trans writer Kyle Lukoff, this book is a sweet and age-appropriate introduction to what it means to be transgender.
K-Gr 2–In short chapters, Max matter-of-factly explains that he sees a boy when he looks in the mirror even though he was given a girl’s name and was labeled female at birth. The story includes short definitions of terms like gender, “...being a boy or a girl. Or a little of both. Or not feeling like a boy or a girl.” Once Max starts school, his teacher calls him by his girl’s name, and he asks to be called Max, and she complies. The bathrooms are a tougher challenge. Max has a black male friend, Steven, who likes to wear dresses, but Steven is not transgender. He just likes dresses. The story is intentionally choppy, with short sentences and episodic chapters that one might find in a beginning reader, so the standard picture book size is unfortunate. Nonetheless, this is an excellent, and potentially groundbreaking, publication choice as an early reader title with a trans protagonist. Similar in format and tone to Dani Gabriel’s Sam, also a primary transgender coming-out picture book, but Max’s voice is more genuine. VERDICT: A welcome title for classrooms, libraries, and PFLAG and other support organizations’ collections.
In this first installment of a new series, Max, who is confidently transgender (“When I look in the mirror, I see a boy”) runs up against a decidedly binary gender culture on his first day of school. Neither the boys nor the girls want him in their respective bathrooms, and he decides that the only course is to “hold it all day.” Writing in an empathetic, conversational style, Lukoff (When Aidan Became a Brother) offers an upbeat portrait of what’s possible: Max is able to ask for and receive the support he needs from the school and his parents (“the boys got used to having me in their bathroom,” he adds). Equally important, though, are eye-opening moments for Max: his new friend Teresa rejects his assertion that girls don’t like to climb trees and look for “gross bugs”; his friend Stephen firmly informs Max that, while he wears dresses, he identifies as a boy. Gender identity, Max realizes, is about everyone having the opportunity to be who they know they are. Lozano (Diana Dances) amplifies the reassuring tone with appealing cartoon-style illustrations. Ages 7–up (October 2019)