The Blurb On The Back:
Sometimes people say to me: “What happened to your brother Bill?”
That’s when I look them in the eye and say: “Hun, you need to chill.”
When Bill can’t be found at school one day, the imaginations of the other children run wild.
Is he on holiday?
Is he lost in the park?
Has he been eaten by a shark?!
It’s up to Bill’s sister to explain …
YOU NEED TO CHILL was released in the United Kingdom on 1st September 2022. Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.
The Review (Cut For Spoilers):
When a small girl’s friends realise that they haven’t seen her older brother Bill for a while, they want to know what’s happened to him. The more they quiz her, the wilder their fears until the narrator has to firmly tell them that they need to chill so she can explain what is going on.
Juno Dawson’s lgbtq+ picture book is a good way of introducing young readers to children with trans identities with the narrator’s pragmatism contrasting with the increasingly hysterical worries of her classmates. However, while Laura Hughes’s illustrations are great – bright, colourful, energetic and packed with character – I found Dawson’s rhymes to be strained at times and the need to chill refrain sounds increasingly precocious.
I picked this up because I’ve read a number of Dawson’s other lgbtq+ books for children and teens so was interested to see what she did with her debut picture book. I liked the premise of this book, which is to introduce younger readers to the idea that sometimes boys become girls and vice versa. It’s something that happens in normal life and reinforcing the idea that the person is still the same whether they’re now a brother or a sister and that it’s no big deal is, for me, a positive message. I think the shame of the book is that this message doesn’t come across until the last few pages so it feels a little out of keeping with the preceding pages, which are all about what the narrator’s classmates imagine to have happened to her brother Bill.
I thoroughly enjoyed Laura Hughes’s illustrations. The narrator is shown as having an individual sense of cool that’s really adorable (especially her frizzy hair) and I liked the energy of the various scenes that show what the classmates are thinking. However, the accompanying text is strained at times, hampered by the rhyming couplets which have to work too hard. I was also in two minds about the “You need to chill” refrain because on one level, I liked the idea that it reinforces the idea that this is not too big of a deal, but at the same time it verges on precocious given the age of the narrator, especially as the story goes on.
Ultimately, I don’t think that this is a bad book and if you are looking for a way to introduce a young reader to the idea that some children are trans, then it may be useful to read this with the to introduce them to the subject. However, while I have very much enjoyed Dawson’s other books with trans and lgtbt+ themes, the execution here just didn’t quite come together for me.