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One-of-a-Kind Kid

Read about a girl who’s just like other girls… only different


You are a one-of-a-kind kid.

There’s nobody else like you. Nobody has eyes like yours, or fingers like yours, or ears that fold like yours. You think for yourself, have your own likes and hates, and people love you just the way you are.

In the new book “I Am Jazz” by Jessica Herthel & Jazz Jennings, pictures by Shelagh McNicholas, you’ll read about a girl who’s just like other girls… only different.

Jazz is a little girl who loves the color pink. It’s been that way for as long as she can remember; she also loves silver and green, maybe because they’re sort of mermaid colors and Jazz loves mermaids, too.

Like a lot of girls, Jazz spends her days doing “favorite things.”  She likes to dance and sing and pretend that she’s someone famous. She draws, plays soccer, swims, and she loves makeup and dress-up. But when Jazz was a very little kid, there were people who didn’t want her to do any of those things.

That’s because Jazz has “a girl brain but a boy body.” She’s transgender, and she was born just like that.

For sure, that caused a lot of confusion when Jazz was small because her family didn’t understand. Though she looked like a boy, she had to remind them that she was really a girl inside and reminding made her sad.

Her brothers said that pink and mermaids were “girl stuff.” Her sister laughed when Jazz talked about “girl thoughts.” Their parents made Jazz wear boy clothes (ugh!) until they saw a new doctor. The doctor said that Jazz was transgender – and since Jazz’s parents love Jazz “no matter what,” they decided to let her be herself, to wear pretty pink clothes and play with the toys she liked.

That wasn’t an easy thing for others to accept at first, but it’s getting better. Some people are understanding, while some kids still tease Jazz and call her names - but then she remembers that those are the ones who don’t really know her very well. Those are the kids who can’t see the important parts of a person. They’re kids who can’t understand different, and “different is special!”

I really like this book. I like it’s perky, friendly cover and the kid-magnet colors that artist Shelagh McNicholas uses. I like the basic premise, and the answers it offers curious kids, parents, and teachers.

Those are the things that struck me immediately about it. Looking deeper, though, I discovered what truly makes “I Am Jazz” so valuable: it’s a unique, no-secrets tale written in a kid-friendly, easy-to-grasp, matter-of-fact way, told in part by author Jazz Jennings herself. That, with co-author Jessica Herthel, makes this story glow with a personal, upbeat and spirited touch that’s relatable for all children.

Meant for 4-to-8-year-olds, I think kids up to age 10 could very much appreciate this book, especially if there’s a transgender child in their school. For them – and for any adult who may need it – “I Am Jazz” is a one-of-a-kind tale.

Terri Schlichenmeyer
Author: Terri Schlichenmeyer
The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Terri has been reading since she was three years old and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.

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To Vaccinate or Not?

For anyone who’s interested in a hidden history of medicine, “On Immunity” is worth a shot

“On Immunity” by Eula Biss, c.2014, Graywolf Press, $24.00 / $27.99 Canada, 207 pages
“On Immunity” by Eula Biss, c.2014, Graywolf Press, $24.00 / $27.99 Canada, 207 pages

You’ve got a big job.

You took it on the moment your child was born, knowing that protecting him was a lifetime assignment. And now, as part of that job, you’re questioning the viability of a rite that children have undergone for decades: vaccinate or not?

You’ve read the pros and the cons, and your mind swims. But once you read “On Immunity: An Inoculation” by Eula Biss, you’ll understand a little more.

While modern medicine is surely that, vaccination has been around for quite awhile: in the mid-1700s, many noticed that milkmaids exposed to cowpox were immune to smallpox, and they acted accordingly. Even before that, though, parents in China and India practiced a form of vaccination called variolation. And before that, birth was “the original inoculation.”

As the daughter of a doctor, Eula Biss got the full round of vaccines that most babies of her generation received. She debated, however, about vaccinating her own son from a strain of flu that was going around when he was an infant, which led to the greater question: which vaccines – if any - are necessary?

The complication, she learned, is that we can’t see vaccine “just in terms of how it affects a single body, but also in terms of how it affects the collective body of… community.” Total world-wide immunization against disease is nearly impossible, but statistics show that if the right percentage of a population is immunized, it can halt an epidemic. The majority effectively protects the minority.

So is it better to receive natural immunity from a disease by contracting it?

Not necessarily, says Biss. While it’s true that we wouldn’t be a species without viruses (a “surprising amount” of our genomes consist of “debris from ancient viral infections”), allowing your children to catch certain childhood diseases now can be detrimental to them later in their lives.

Hand sanitizers aren’t the answer, either, since they kill “indiscriminately,” promote antibiotic resistance, and leave behind traces of unsavory chemicals. And part of the vaccine-or-not issue is that misinformation can, well, go viral.

And yet, “uncomfortable with both sides” of the argument, and “overwhelmed by information,” Biss went ahead with the schedule of inoculations for her son. “I still believe,” she says, “there are reasons to vaccinate that transcend medicine.”

When you see something these days about vaccinations, it’s easy to conclude that it might fiercely be for or against.  Not so with “On Immunity.”

With cautious deliberation and careful reflection, author Eula Biss offers readers a good balance in this debate, which is delightfully welcome. As a mother, she’s obviously had to ponder the issue and her conclusions are based in fact and personal anecdote, although she also includes the perfect amount of history and literature for entertainment.

I’m not sure this book will change any minds, but it does offer a fair mix to consider if you’re a parent facing the decision. For you, or for anyone who’s interested in a hidden history of medicine, “On Immunity” is worth a shot.

Terri Schlichenmeyer
Author: Terri Schlichenmeyer
The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Terri has been reading since she was three years old and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.

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Beasts to Scare You

A great book for sleepovers and campfires this fall


The nights are getting longer.

Dark falls much earlier these days; there are more shadows and more things hiding in corners, beneath, and behind. More beasts to scare you.

More creatures to catch you.

You can probably name a few of them but do you know what, exactly, lurks where you’re not expecting it?  Read “M is for Monster” by J. Patrick Lewis, illustrated by Gerald Kelley and find out… if you dare!

A is at the top of the alphabet, so maybe it’s right that we start at the top of the world where A is for Amarok. It’s a fierce wolf-like creature that’s almost as big as a man and that hides in the forest. The Inuit fear the Amarok – and you should, too.

“Almost every culture has its own favorite dragon,” says J. Patrick Lewis, so that’s what D stands for: dragons. Most of them breathe fire and they make excellent guards for your castle. Some are tamed, but there’s no word on housebreaking issues.

If you live in a big city, you might be familiar with Gargoyles, which is the G word here. Originally meant to help keep buildings safe from rainwater, there’s an interesting (and frightening) myth that goes along with them. No wonder the stone beasts are so scary!

Is it a bird?  Is it a snake?  It’s both, because Q is for Quetzalcoatl, a creature that appears to be many parts, including a bit of human. He’s huge and he’s terrifying, but he’s not such a bad guy underneath: the Aztecs thought he invented books and calendars and that he brought corn, so they worshipped him.

U is for unicorn, a creature that’s hardly a monster. Legend has it that the shy, gentle horse-with-a-horn can cleanse water and heal injuries, and it’s attracted by purity and innocence. In truth, however, the creatures have never been seen – although several kinds of animals could really fool you.

And then we end at the end with Z for zombies. Yes, the Undead are shocking – maybe because they’re portrayed as a sign of the end of the world!
Looking for a great book for sleepovers and campfires this fall?  “M is for Monster” fits that fine, but beware of who you’re scaring…

You probably wouldn’t think, for example, that an alphabet book is for older kids but this one definitely is. Author J. Patrick Lewis offers a basic intro to twenty-six monsters from different cultures, while illustrator Gerald Kelley’s artwork enhances the narrative to lend an eerie feeling to each creature profile.

But there’s the beware: small, sensitive children may run, screaming, into a bedtime full of nightmares after they see what’s inside this book. The artwork is incredible but it works its magic entirely too well for little ones.

And so, while you may want to keep this out of 3-to-6-year-old hands, I think 7-to-12-year-olds (and some adults) will cherish this book for its info and its art. “M is for Monster” may be something they’ll want to read a little longer.

Terri Schlichenmeyer
Author: Terri Schlichenmeyer
The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Terri has been reading since she was three years old and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.

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Books to Scare You

These hair-raising paperbacks are not for the kiddies


The days of plastic masks are over for you.

No more Mom’s makeshift monster costumes; no more department-store, mass-produced everybody’s-wearing-its. You dress yourself on Halloween because you know you create a better costume than anybody, a fact you’re proud of.

You might know make-up, but there are scares you just can’t make up. You’ll find them in “Haunted Stuff” by Stacey Graham and “ America ’s Most Haunted” by Theresa Argie and Eric Olsen.

books to scare
“America ’s Most Haunted” by Theresa Argie and Eric Olsen, c.2014, Berkeley, $16.00 / $18.00 Canada, 341 pages



Those old Halloween decorations you brought home last year are going to scare the Dickens out of the neighborhood kids. You can’t wait to put them up – but maybe you should. In “Haunted Stuff,” you’ll see why you should wait, maybe forever. Cast-off belongings, you see, could be thick with things you can’t see.

It’s fun to find a bargain, for instance, but Graham says that many second-hand items – including clothing, toys, furniture, and collectibles – may’ve had owners that are still quite attached to them. Bring the item home, she says, and you could be inviting a spirit into your house.

That could be charming… or it could be terrorizing.

books to scare you
“Haunted Stuff” by Stacey Graham, c.2014, Llewellyn, $15.99 / $18.50 Canada, 240 pages



Once-loved dolls, for instance, could be imbedded with the spirit of the child who played with them, but that’s not all. She includes stories of demon dolls that caused mayhem (at best) and insanity (or worse). And whatever you do, don’t think badly about those toys because, well, they’ll know.

And if you’re a brave soul and things don’t scare you, let’s see how you do with places. In “ America ’s Most Haunted,” you’ll learn about paranormal homes, hotels, and hotspots that you can actually visit.

In Ohio , you could meet a ghost from the long-ago past who may haunt in tandem with a ghost from the 1990s. In West Virginia , tour a former “lunatic asylum” that might harbor Civil War spirits. In Colorado , take a room-by-tunnel trip in a hotel where the scenery is beautiful and the screamery is boooo-tiful. In California , you can visit a ship that one Hollywood star admitted has an “otherworldly” feel about it.

What’s nice about this book is that it’s so thorough. The authors tell you where you’ll have the best likelihood of spotting or hearing something eerie; whether it can be explained by natural reasons; and phone numbers, addresses, and tips on going there to see for yourself.

Halloween: fun & games, or frights & ghouls?  How about both?

I, personally, find the cover of “Haunted Stuff” to be deliciously disturbing. Happily, the inside matches the outside but beware: read it, and you’ll think twice about bargain-hunting, forever. 

And if a good old-fashioned ghost story completes your Halloween, then “ America ’s Most Haunted” is your (spooky) book. Just remember, as you’re reading: it’s all chillingly true!

Bear in mind that these hair-raising paperbacks are not for the kiddies; in fact, the cover of one of them is nightmarish. “Haunted Stuff” and “America’s Most Haunted” are great to have, but be sure to keep them out of little hands because sometimes, Halloween isn’t for kids – and neither are these books.

Terri Schlichenmeyer
Author: Terri Schlichenmeyer
The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Terri has been reading since she was three years old and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.

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Book Review: ‘Leaving Time’

Clear your calendar

“Leaving Time” by Jodi Picoult c.2014, Ballantine Books  $28.00 / $30.00 Canada 416 pages
“Leaving Time” by Jodi Picoult c.2014, Ballantine Books $28.00 / $30.00 Canada 416 pages

A good mother loves her child unconditionally.

She cares for her little one, making sure the baby is dry, safe, and comforted. She feeds her child and tends to him, no matter what time of day or night.

You can add to this list at will, because we all know what a good mother does. But, as in the new book “Leaving Time” by Jodi Picoult, a good mother does not abandon her child.

Thirteen-year-old Jenna Metcalf had a routine that she kept every morning: she got dressed and logged on to the Department of Justice website to see if her mother had been found yet.

A decade before, after one of the caretakers at their elephant sanctuary was trampled by accident, Jenna’s mother, Alice, was found nearby, unconscious, and was taken to the hospital. When she regained her wits, Alice bolted from the building and disappeared.
It haunted Jenna ever since.

What kind of mother abandons her little daughter?  Was Alice hurt or killed?  That was something Jenna absolutely needed to know – and so, old enough to have saved money from babysitting and birthday gifts, she hired a psychic and a detective.

Once upon a time, Virgil Stanhope was proud of his career.

He’d been one of the lead detectives on the death of the elephant caretaker and the disappearance of Alice Metcalf – but he was having second thoughts. He knew back then that he’d done a hack job. Why hadn’t he dug further into this case?

It had been a long time since The Dead had spoken to Serenity Jones, and she missed it. Ever since a brash, egotistical mistake ruined her TV career, she couldn’t get a human to talk to her, much less a spirit. So when Jenna showed up on Serenity’s doorstep, asking for help, and messages began whispering in Serenity’s head, what could the seer do but listen?

For most of her life, Alice Metcalf was devoted to the study of elephants. They were fascinating to her, and the ultimate reason her life had turned out as it had. She saw so many parallels between pachyderms and humans: love, joy, grief.

Especially grief…

Got a calendar?

Clear it. Cancel your plans. Once you’ve got “Leaving Time” in your hands, you won’t want to do anything but spend time with this book.

Through the voices of four main characters, author Jodi Picoult gives readers the kind of novel they’ve come to expect, but with a twist: there’s some mystery in this book. We aren’t sure what happened to Alice , if she’s a killer, a victim, or something else. That keeps-you-guessing factor appears in every Picoult novel, but in this book, it’ll make you page back to see how you didn’t catch the clues and to marvel at where you went in the meantime.

And I’m going to stop there. I can’t bear to ruin your enjoyment of unwrapping the layers in this excellent book. Just know that if you’ve got “Leaving Time,” you’ll only want everyone to leave you alone to read.

Terri Schlichenmeyer
Author: Terri Schlichenmeyer
The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Terri has been reading since she was three years old and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.

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