Thursday, September 20, 2018

New Book! _You Don't Know Everything, Jilly P!_ by Alex Gino (September 25, 2018)

You Don't Know Everything, Jilly P! (September 25, 2018) by Alex Gino
Age Range: 8 - 12 years
Grade Level: 3 - 7
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Scholastic Press (September 25, 2018)
ISBN-10: 0545956242
ISBN-13: 978-0545956246

It has been a while since I have been this excited about a book being released. When I read books with deaf characters, I typically jot notes or tag the pages with positive representations, aspects that I enjoy about the narrative, or aspects I wish to discuss in a review. I literally ran out of my tags with this book so I’m adding a picture so you have a visual.

You Don’t Know Everything, Jilly P! is not the first book that I have read by the super-talented Alex Gino. Last February, I read Gino’s debut novel, GEORGE (2015) about a fourth grader who wanted to play the character Charlotte rather than Wilbur in the school’s production of the play Charlotte’s Web. Through the novel, readers learn that the main character knows she is a girl even when others see George as a boy. It is a touching and powerful read that I highly encourage you to read.

When I started You Don’t Know Everything, Jilly P!, I expected it was going to be a good read. I had not expected how much I would like it. I laughed and cried several times. The book covers some hard topics, which adults do not usually care to address because it makes many of us uncomfortable; yet, young people need answers and they need to understand this world. Gino has created a strong, supportive family that we need. I also appreciate that so many of my questions that I usually have for authors are answered in the Author’s Note and Acknowledgments. Please do not skip reading those because there I found one of the best descriptions of privilege that I have ever read. 

This blog focuses on Deaf Characters and while Gino includes more than one ASL- using, Deaf character, the book is from the main character Jilly’s point of view. However, Jilly meets Derek aka profoundinoaktown through the Young Vidalians chat room, one designated for “kids ages eleven to thirteen” (2).  Both Jilly and Derek are readers of the B.A. Delacourt’s Magically Mysterious Vidalia trilogy, and they frequently enter the chat room to discuss book characters, plots, and life. Jilly, who is white and hearing, learns that Derek is Black, Deaf and that he uses ASL as his first language. Because readers have access to the chats in the chatroom, we have Derek’s words directly from his point of view.  Throughout these chats, we learn about Derek’s life where he attends the California School for the Deaf.

Derek is a really cool character and so important considering the only other Black, Deaf character in adolescent literature that I have found is Sean from Jacqueline Woodson’s Feathers (2007).

I do not want to give away too much of the book but Jilly's sister Emma is another important deaf character in the story. And, in my experience, finding the perfect book ending is rare but Alex Gino gets it so right.

I am going to make myself a PB&J (a little book reference there for you). Below is the book description and also my interview with author Alex Gino. Enjoy!

Book description:
Jilly thinks she's figured out how life works. But when her sister, Emma, is born deaf, she realizes how much she still has to learn. The world is going to treat Jilly, who is white and hearing, differently from Emma,
just as it will treat them both differently from their Black cousins.

A big fantasy reader, Jilly makes a connection online with
another fantasy fan, Derek, who is a Deaf, Black ASL user. She goes to Derek for help with Emma but doesn't always know the best way or time to ask for it.

As she and Derek meet in person, have some really fun conversations, and become friends, Jilly makes some mistakes . . . but comes to understand that it's up to her, not Derek to figure out how to do better next time--especially when she wants to be there for Derek the most.

Within a world where kids like Derek and Emma aren't assured the same freedom or safety as kids like Jilly, Jilly is starting to learn all the things she doesn't know--and by doing that, she's also working to discover how to support her family and her friends.

With You Don’t Know Everything, Jilly P!, award-winning author Alex Gino uses their trademark humor, heart, and humanity to show readers how being open to
difference can make you a better person, and how being open to change can make you change in the best possible ways.

About the author:
Alex Gino loves glitter, ice cream, gardening, awe-ful puns, and stories that reflect the diversity and complexity of being alive. George was their first novel. George was a winner of the Children's Stonewall Award, the Lambda Literary Award, and the Children's Choice Book Awards, among a host of others. George was also featured on several Best of the Year lists.

Check out my interview with author Alex Gino below. 
SP: What inspired you to include a Black, Deaf, ASL-using character in your novel?
AG: As a white, non-disabled writer, I have been thinking a lot about my role in anti-racism and anti-ableism. It’s not my job to write the stories of marginalized people, but it is important for me to reflect the diversity of the world in my fiction. In Jilly P!, that means that a white, hearing girl befriends a Black, Deaf boy in the chat room of her favorite fantasy series.

SP: What research did you do to make your character believable?

AG: I grew up in New York City and my paternal grandparents were Deaf, so there have always been Deaf and Black people in my life. Also, my work as a Board Member of Nolose, a feminist fat liberation organization, was key in expanding my understanding of privilege. For the book, I read a lot of websites and blogs and talked with a lot of people about racism, ableism and privilege, including a very important conversation with a Black femme who pointed out the importance of showing Derek’s pain as well as his anger.

SP: I laughed and cried while reading this book. To me, that’s a good thing. What do you hope that readers will take away or learn from while or after reading You Don’t Know Everything, Jilly P!

AG: Why thank you. That’s quite the compliment! I hope that white, hearing readers like me will take as an opportunity to reflect on their own privilege and how they can support marginalized people in their lives without making it all about how amazing they are for having taken on “this important issue.” For Black and Deaf readers, I hope they find a bit of their lives reflected respectfully on the page. And for everyone who isn’t allergic, I hope they perfect their personal peanut butter & jelly sandwich technique!
SP: What advice do you have for young readers?

AG: I often hear that you’re “supposed” to do a lot of things as a writer, and to be honest, I’m not very good at most of them.  (Write every day, make character sketches, dedicate a space to writing). In fact, I’ve had to work through a bunch of shame because I don’t work that way. I do need to write regularly if I want to produce, and I do need to know my characters to write them well, but these external rules aren’t for everyone (and they often work best for people with lots of privilege – fancy that.) So my first piece of advice is to be cautious of advice.

That said, my best recommendation to a writer who is trying to improve is to share your work with others and listen to what they say. That doesn’t mean you have to follow their advice, especially based on a single comment, but their feedback tells you how your work is coming across, so that you can modify it for your goals. A character’s choice doesn’t make sense to multiple readers? You could change the choice. Or you can create the context so that the choice works.

SP: How did you become so darn cool?

AG: Oh gosh. I was certainly very UNCOOL in junior high school, and I’m still the same outspoken weirdo I was then, so I don’t know what happened.

SP: Anything you'd like to add...
AG: I have seen a number of books with Deaf main characters written by hearing people published in the last few years, including all three of last years’ Schneider Award honorees. There are also way more books currently published about Black people than by Black people. And while my main character is white and hearing, I am still a hearing person talking about Deaf culture and a white person talking about racism. I hope I’ve done it well, but I also know that I am amidst a sea of good intentions and I need to stay cautious of the waves.

For more information about the author, please visit

For pre-orders from Mrs. Dalloway’s that will be signed by the author, follow this link: