Born Ready: The True Story of a Boy Named Penelope

by Jodie Patterson (Author) Charnelle Pinkney Barlow (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

Jodie Patterson, activist and Chair of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation Board, shares her transgender son's experience in this important picture book about identity and acceptance.

Penelope knows that he's a boy. (And a ninja.) The problem is getting everyone else to realize it.

In this exuberant companion to Jodie Patterson's adult memoir, The Bold World, Patterson shares her son Penelope's frustrations and triumphs on his journey to share himself with the world. Penelope's experiences show children that it always makes you stronger when you are true to yourself and who you really are.

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Publishers Weekly

This picture book companion to activist Patterson's adult memoir The Bold World centers her transgender son Penelope's coming-out journey, shortly before he turned five. Told in the first-person, the narrative follows Penelope, who knows that he's a ninja, and knows what he likes--"Skateboards and high-tops, baggy blue jeans." Initially, he acts out to get his busy family to pay attention, before he confides something else he knows to his mother: "No, Mama, I don't feel like a boy. I AM a boy." Without missing a beat, his mother affirms his identity: "We will make a plan to tell everyone we love what we know.... You are a boy." Barlow's illustrations, created digitally with handmade watercolor textures, emphasize the Black family's expressions and movement, allowing young readers to take in the family's emotions (and Penelope's karate moves). A heartening true story for children that offers guidance to caretakers. Ages 4-8. (Apr.)

Copyright 2020 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

This representation of a Black family and transgender child shines with joy and affirmation... A triumphant declaration of love and identity. —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

A heartening true story for children that offers guidance to caretakers. —Publisher's Weekly
Jodie Patterson
Jodie Patterson is the author of The Bold World: A Memoir of Family and Transformation and was Family Circle magazine's Most Influential Mom in 2018. She is the mother of five children, two of whom are self-proclaimed gender nonconformists--one transgender and another genderqueer. Jodie was inspired to write Born Ready to show how an entire community can be flexible and change for those they love. Jodie raises her family in Brooklyn, New York. Visit her at

Charnelle Pinkney Barlow is an illustrator, an expert tea drinker, and a lover of all things doughnuts. She discovered a love for drawing and painting during her childhood in Poughkeepsie, New York, which led her to the world of children's book illustration. She now lives in Indianapolist, Indiana, with her husband Jukabiea.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
April 20, 2021

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