Patterson, Jodie

Born Ready: The True Story of a Boy Named Penelope

(2) K-3 Illustrated by Charnelle Pinkney Barlow. Penelope knows he is a boy, despite his name and how others see him--if only his family weren't too busy to notice. Penelope stomps through the house and acts out in school, hoping that someone will heed his frustration. Finally, Mom asks why he's so upset, and Penelope tells her who he truly is. Immediately, Penelope feels a rush of relief, and we see his first real smile. "For the first time, my insides don't feel like fire. They feel like warm golden love"--­powerful words for a child, illuminating the emotions Penelope was carrying inside. With the help of his family and community, Penelope navigates his transition and is able to focus on his next mission: ­mastering karate. The digitally rendered, watercolor-esque illustrations add softness to each page. Penelope's daydreams are displayed in wispy clouds of blue, green, and gold. Patterson's closeness to the protagonist (she is the real-life Penelope's mother) makes the first-person narration even more relatable, as we see the world through Penelope's eyes. Penelope and his family are Black, adding a necessary level of intersectionality to the pool of ­children's books exploring gender (see also When Aidan Became a Brother, rev. 7/19). Readers will be rooting for Penelope from the first page to the last.


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