Tag Archives: MG

Fave Five: Spooky MG/YA Graphic Novels

Beetle and the Hollowbones by Aliza Layne

Artie and the Wolf Moon by Olivia Stephens

Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu

Squad by Maggie Tokuda-Hall and Lisa Sterle

DeadEndia: The Watcher’s List by Hamish Steele

Bonus: Coming in 2022, Blackwater by Jeannette Arroyo and Ren Graham 

Fave Five: Books with Young Teen Protagonists

Almost Flying by Jake Maia Arlow (13)

Hazel’s Theory of Evolution and Drum Roll, Please by Lisa Jenn Bigelow (13)

Starring Kitty by Keris Stainton (14)

Anything Could Happen by Will Walton (14)

Boy Meets Hamster by Birdie Milano (14)

Bonus: Coming in 2022, Ellen Outside the Lines by A.J. Sass (13) and In the Key of Us by Mariama J. Lockington (13)

Fave Five: MG/YA Starring Trans Athletes

Obie is Man Enough by Schuyler Bailar (MG, swimming)

The Passing Playbook by Isaac Fitzsimons (YA, soccer)

May the Best Man Win by ZR Ellor (YA, cheerleading)

Blood Sport by Tash McAdam (YA, boxing)

Cheer Up! by Crystal Frasier, Val Wise, and Oscar O. Jupiter (YA, cheerleading)

Bonus: These books all have binary trans main characters, but for a nonbinary athlete, check out Ana on the Edge by AJ Sass (MG, ice skating)

Most Anticipated LGBTQA Middle Grade: July-December 2021

Obie is Man Enough by Schuyler Bailar (September 7th)

Obie knew his transition would have ripple effects. He has to leave his swim coach, his pool, and his best friends. But it’s time for Obie to find where he truly belongs.

As Obie dives into a new team, though, things are strange. Obie always felt at home in the water, but now he can’t get his old coach out of his head. Even worse are the bullies that wait in the locker room and on the pool deck. Luckily, Obie has family behind him. And maybe some new friends too, including Charlie, his first crush. Obie is ready to prove he can be one of the fastest boys in the water—to his coach, his critics, and his biggest competition: himself.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

A Touch of Ruckus by Ash Van Otterloo (September 7th)

Tennessee Lancaster has a hidden gift.

She can pry into folks’ memories with just a touch of their belongings. It’s something she’s always kept hidden — especially from her big, chaotic family. Their lives are already chock-full of worries about Daddy’s job and Mama’s blues without Tennie rocking the boat.

But when the Lancasters move to the mountains for a fresh start, Tennie’s gift does something new. Instead of just memories, her touch releases a ghost with a terrifying message: Trouble is coming. Tennie wants to ignore it. Except her new friend Fox — scratch that, her only friend, Fox — is desperate to go ghost hunting deep in the forest. And when Tennie frees even more of the spirits, trouble is exactly what she gets… and it hits close to home. The ghosts will be heard, and now Tennie must choose between keeping secrets or naming an ugly truth that could tear her family apart.

Magic and mayhem abound in this spooky story about family legacies, first friendships, and how facing the ghosts inside can sometimes mean stirring up a little bit of ruckus.

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Other Boys by Damian Alexander (September 7th)

In Other Boys, debut author Damian Alexander delivers a moving middle grade graphic memoir about his struggles with bullying, the death of his mother, and coming out.

Damian is the new kid at school, and he has a foolproof plan to avoid the bullying that’s plagued him his whole childhood: he’s going to stop talking. Starting on the first day seventh grade, he won’t utter a word. If he keeps his mouth shut, the bullies will have nothing to tease him about―right?

But Damian’s vow of silence doesn’t work―his classmates can tell there’s something different about him. His family doesn’t look like the kind on TV: his mother is dead, his father is gone, and he’s being raised by his grandparents in a low-income household. And Damian does things that boys aren’t supposed do, like play with Barbies instead of GI Joe. Kids have teased him about this his whole life, especially other boys. But if boys can be so cruel, why does Damian have a crush on one?

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The Insiders by Mark Oshiro (September 21st)

San Francisco and Orangevale may be in the same state, but for Héctor Muñoz, they might as well be a million miles apart. Back home, being gay didn’t mean feeling different. At Héctor’s new school, he couldn’t feel more alone.

Most days, Héctor just wishes he could disappear. And he does. Right into the janitor’s closet. (Yes, he sees the irony.) But one day, when the door closes behind him, Héctor discovers he’s stumbled into a room that shouldn’t be possible. A room that connects him with two new friends from different corners of the country—and opens the door to a life-changing year full of magic, friendship, and adventure.

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City of Thieves by Alex London (September 21st)

54671391. sy475 In a modern mega-city built around dragons, one boy gets caught up in the world of underground dragon battles and a high-stakes gang war that could tear his family apart.

Once, dragons nearly drove themselves to extinction. But in the city of Drakopolis, humans domesticated them centuries ago. Now dragons haul the city’s cargo, taxi its bustling people between skyscrapers, and advertise its wares in bright, neon displays. Most famously of all, the dragons battle. Different breeds take to the skies in nighttime bouts between the infamous kins―criminal gangs who rule through violence and intimidation.

Abel has always loved dragons, but after a disastrous showing in his dragon rider’s exam, he’s destined never to fly one himself. All that changes the night his sister appears at his window, entrusting him with a secret…and a stolen dragon.

Turns out, his big sister is a dragon thief! Too bad his older brother is a rising star in Drakopolis law enforcement…

To protect his friends and his family, Abel must partner with the stolen beast, riding in kin battles and keeping more secrets than a dragon has scales.

When everyone wants him fighting on their side, can Abel figure out what’s worth fighting for?

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

This is Our Rainbow ed. by Katherine Locke and Nicole Melleby (October 19th)

The first LGBTQ+ anthology for middle-graders featuring stories for every letter of the acronym, including realistic, fantasy, and sci-fi stories by authors like Justina Ireland, Marieke Nijkamp, Alex Gino, and more!

A boyband fandom becomes a conduit to coming out. A former bully becomes a first-kiss prospect. One nonbinary kid searches for an inclusive athletic community after quitting gymnastics. Another nonbinary kid, who happens to be a pirate, makes a wish that comes true–but not how they thought it would. A tween girl navigates a crush on her friend’s mom. A young witch turns herself into a puppy to win over a new neighbor. A trans girl empowers her online bestie to come out.

From wind-breathing dragons to first crushes, This Is Our Rainbow features story after story of joyful, proud LGBTQIA+ representation. You will fall in love with this insightful, poignant anthology of queer fantasy, historical, and contemporary stories from authors including: Eric Bell, Lisa Jenn Bigelow, Ashley Herring Blake, Lisa Bunker, Alex Gino, Justina Ireland, Shing Yin Khor, Katherine Locke, Mariama J. Lockington, Nicole Melleby, Marieke Nijkamp, Claribel A. Ortega, Mark Oshiro, Molly Knox Ostertag, Aida Salazar, and AJ Sass.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

The Golden Hour by Niki Smith (October 26th)

The Golden HourStruggling with anxiety after witnessing a harrowing instance of gun violence, Manuel Soto copes through photography, using his cell-phone camera to find anchors that keep him grounded. His days are a lonely, latchkey monotony until he’s teamed with his classmates, Sebastian and Caysha, for a group project.

Sebastian lives on a grass-fed cattle farm outside of town, and Manuel finds solace in the open fields and in the antics of the newborn calf Sebastian is hand-raising. As Manuel aides his new friends in their preparations for the local county fair, he learns to open up, confronts his deepest fears, and even finds first love.

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A-Okay by Jarad Greene (November 2nd)

When Jay starts eighth grade with a few pimples he doesn’t think much of it at first…except to wonder if the embarrassing acne will disappear as quickly as it arrived. But when his acne goes from bad to worse, Jay’s prescribed a powerful medication that comes with some serious side effects. Regardless, he’s convinced it’ll all be worth it if clear skin is on the horizon!

Meanwhile, school isn’t going exactly as planned. All of Jay’s friends are in different classes; he has no one to sit with at lunch; his best friend, Brace, is avoiding him; and–to top it off–Jay doesn’t understand why he doesn’t share the same feelings two of his fellow classmates, a boy named Mark and a girl named Amy, have for him.

Eighth grade can be tough, but Jay has to believe everything’s going to be a-okay…right?

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Candidly Cline by Kathryn Ormsbee (November 9th)

Born in Paris, Kentucky, and raised on her gram’s favorite country music, Cline Alden is a girl with big dreams and a heart full of song. When she finds out about a young musicians’ workshop a few towns over, Cline sweet-talks, saves, and maybe fibs her way into her first step toward musical stardom.

But her big dreams never prepared her for the butterflies she feels surrounded by so many other talented kids—especially Sylvie, who gives Cline the type of butterflies she’s only ever heard about in love songs.

As she learns to make music of her own, Cline begins to realize how much of herself she’s been holding back. But now, there’s a new song taking shape in her heart—if only she can find her voice and sing it.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Exclusive Cover Reveal: In the Key of Us by Mariama J. Lockington

I have been anticipating this book for about a billion years (like, you truly cannot imagine how closely I have stalked this book on Goodreads to look for a pub date), so I am extremely excited to be revealing the cover today for In the Key of Us by Mariama J. Lockington, a contemporary Middle Grade novel releasing April 26, 2022 from FSG BYR! Here’s the story:

Thirteen-year-old Andi feels stranded after the loss of her mother, the artist, who swept color onto Andi’s blank canvas. When she is accepted to a music camp, Andi finds herself struggling to play her trumpet like used to before her whole world changed. Meanwhile, Zora, a returning camper, is exhausted trying to please her parents, who are determined to make her a flute prodigy even though she secretly has a dancer’s heart.

At Harmony Music Camp, Zora and Andi are the only two Black girls in a sea of mostly white faces. In kayaks and creaky cabins, the two begin to connect, unraveling their loss, insecurities, and hope for the future.

And as they struggle to figure out who they really are, they may just come to realize who they really need: each other. From the author of the critically-acclaimed novel, For Black Girls Like Me, comes a lyrical story about the rush of first love and the power of one life-changing summer.

And here’s the dreamy, beautiful cover, illustrated by Tonya Engel and designed by Mallory Grigg!

And here’s Mariama with three things she wants you to know about In The Key Of Us and this stunning cover:

1. I’ve been a big fan of Tonya Engel’s work ever since I saw her beautiful art on the cover of Kacen Callender’s Hurricane Child. While my publisher worked with Engel on the initial drafts, I did get to give input on the cover along the way. I wanted the cover to convey the way that a Black girl’s skin is radiant during summer and also make it clear that this is a first-love story full of adventure. I think Engel has nailed my vision here and I love that Andi and Zora are holding hands, that they are floating in a kayak and staring into all that the sky has to offer.

2. This book is written in the voices of my two main characters— Andi and Zora, and writing a dual POV story was a huge challenge. Initially, Andi’s voice came to me clearer than Zora’s, but I think that’s because Zora and I share more similarities to one another and it was harder to distance myself from her. In many ways, I was and still am a Zora when it comes to being a perfectionist and not wanting to let people down. As much as I think the trumpet is an amazing instrument, like Zora I grew up playing the flute. Andi in many ways is a mash-up of the kind of girl I wanted to be.

3. In the Key of Us is my ode to Queer, Black girls who love music, art, and the outdoors. It was important to me to write a story about first love, but also about friendship, artistic passion, and what it means to grieve and grow-up. I hope that this book will provide those who find it with validation, a sense of adventure, and permission to make or listen to music often, love themselves fully, and know that even when life gets hard, they are never alone.

Preorder: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Mariama J. Lockington is a transracial adoptee, author, and educator. She has been telling stories and making her own books since the second grade, when she wore shortalls and flower leggings every day to school. Her debut middle grade novel For Black Girls Like Me (FSG BYR 2019) is an ALA Notable Middle Grade Book, a Booklist Editors Choice title, a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard title, a Project LIT Book Club 2019-2020 selection, and has earned five starred reviews from Shelf Awareness, Publisher’s Weekly, BookPage, School Library Journal, and Booklist. Mariama’s second middle grade novel In the Key Of Us (FSG BYR) will be out in April of 2022 and her debut YA novel Forever is Now (FSG BYR) is also forthcoming. Mariama calls many places home, but currently lives in Kentucky with her partner and her little sausage dog, Henry. You can find her on Twitter @marilock and on Instagram @forblackgirlslikeme.

Fave Five: Queer Caribbean Fiction

Hurricane Child by Kacen Callender (MG, USVI)

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo (YA, Dominican Republic)

Sweethand by N.G. Peltier (Adult, Trinidad)

Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn (Adult, Jamaican)

Bliss and Every Dark Desire by Fiona Zedde (YA, Jamaica)

Bonus: Coming in 2023, Songs of Irie by Asha Bromfield (YA, Jamaica)

Double Bonus: For a books with a Haitian-born MC but set in the US, try American Love Story by Adriana Herrera

Exclusive Cover Reveal: This is Our Rainbow ed. by Katherine Locke and Nicole Melleby

I am THE MOST excited to be sharing this cover reveal today, not just because I happen to adore the editors personally and not just because the cover is adorable, and not even just because the actually collection sounds incredible and so, so necessary, but because as you’ll read, I had a little hand in this one!

This is Our Rainbow is an all-LGBTQ+ Middle Grade anthology edited by Katherine Locke and Nicole Melleby, releasing from Knopf on October 19, 2021, and here to share the cover and the story behind it are the editors themselves!

***

We are SO EXCITED to bring you the cover of This is Our Rainbow: 16 Stories of Him, Her, Them and Us, our LGBTQ+ middle grade anthology!

This anthology has been such a joyful experience from start to finish…and it started with a tweet! Dahlia, who is no stranger to editing anthologies, tweeted that she really hoped there was a queer middle grade anthology in the works, and that she would help whoever decided to take this on however they needed. When Nicole expressed interest, Dahlia got her in touch with Katherine (who had just finished up on It’s a Whole Spiel so had the anthology editor experience).

We clicked immediately and got brainstorming. Meanwhile, our editor at Knopf, Marisa DiNovis, responded to Dahlia’s tweet, too, saying that a queer middle grade anthology was literally her dream. It’s only fitting that we’re doing the cover reveal here, on Dahlia’s blog, seeing as she helped make this whole thing possible!

So Twitter can be a force for good!

These stories are full of so much heart and joy and thoughtfulness, and we cannot wait to share each and every one of these with readers.

This is Our Rainbow

The first LGBTQ+ anthology for middle-graders featuring stories for every letter of the acronym, including realistic, fantasy, and sci-fi stories by authors like Justina Ireland, Marieke Nijkamp, Alex Gino, and more!

A boyband fandom becomes a conduit to coming out. A former bully becomes a first-kiss prospect. One nonbinary kid searches for an inclusive athletic community after quitting gymnastics. Another nonbinary kid, who happens to be a pirate, makes a wish that comes true–but not how they thought it would. A tween girl navigates a crush on her friend’s mom. A young witch turns herself into a puppy to win over a new neighbor. A trans girl empowers her online bestie to come out.

From wind-breathing dragons to first crushes, This Is Our Rainbow features story after story of joyful, proud LGBTQIA+ representation. You will fall in love with this insightful, poignant anthology of queer fantasy, historical, and contemporary stories from authors including: Eric Bell, Lisa Jenn Bigelow, Ashley Herring Blake, Lisa Bunker, Alex Gino, Justina Ireland, Shing Yin Khor, Katherine Locke, Mariama J. Lockington, Nicole Melleby, Marieke Nijkamp, Claribel A. Ortega, Mark Oshiro, Molly Knox Ostertag, Aida Salazar, and AJ Sass.

But today, we get to share the most glorious cover either of us have ever seen with YOU.

We are COMPLETELY obsessed with this cover with by Jes and Cin, designed by Sylvia Bi! Like, COMPLETELY OBSESSED.

Without further ado…here it is!

We LOVE this cover. Seeing such joy and pride and so many different representations on the cover of a middle grade book was a dream come true. We love that it’s so bright and happy; queer children getting to be themselves and happy and celebrating themselves was exactly what we wanted on the inside of this anthology, so we love that you can so clearly see that from this cover. And we can’t wait to share the back of the book too in a few months with more characters and more joy!

And we wanted to share more from the artists too! Here’s what Jes and Cin had to say about working on the cover:

What excited you about working on This Is Our Rainbow?

We were so excited that this was the first middle grade anthology about queer identities! We’re extremely passionate about queer representation in kids’ media, and seeing this diverse collection of stories and creatives was something we absolutely wanted (and are very honored) to be a part of.

How did you envision the cover?

The cover was a fun challenge. Fitting in all the protagonists and visualizing their flags into a book jacket is a lot! Sylvia Bi, the assistant designer, gave us some great prompts and directions to play with! We definitely wanted something bright and colorful, that showcased happy queer children celebrating themselves as individuals but also as a community. Reading the stories in this anthology really solidified how this cover would look.

What were your inspirations for the cover’s direction?

We were largely inspired by Naomi Franquiz’s cover for ToComix Press’ Shout Out Anthology! She put so much personality and individuality to the characters on that cover. We wanted the kids to interact with each other for This is Our Rainbow. Like a “warm gay hug” feeling! We also pulled from our experience going to Pride events. The many ways people joyfully expressed their identities through pins, flags, capes, and flower crowns was something we wanted to bring into the cover.

***

This is Our Rainbow releases on October 19th, 2021, and you can find more information and where to buy This is Our Rainbow here!

Preorder: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Katherine Locke lives and writes in Philadelphia where they are ruled by their feline overlords and their addiction to chai lattes. They are the award-winning author of THE GIRL WITH THE RED BALLOON, THE SPY WITH THE RED BALLOON, editor-and-contributor to IT’S A WHOLE SPIEL, and other titles. They not-so-secretly believe most stories are fairytales in disguise. They can be found on Twitter and Instagram at @bibliogato, and on katherinelockebooks.com.

Nicole Melleby, a born-and-bred Jersey girl, is the author of HURRICANE SEASON, which was a Lambda Literary Finalist, IN THE ROLE OF BRIE HUTCHENS…, a Kirkus Reviews best book of the year, and the upcoming HOW TO BECOME A PLANET (May 2021). She lives with her partner and their cat, whose need for attention oddly aligns with Nicole’s writing schedule. Feel free to follow her on Twitter @LadyNeeko

Most Anticipated LGBTQ Middle Grade Fiction: January-June 2021

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Goldie Vance: The Hocus Pocus Hoax by Lilliam Rivera, ill. by Elle Power (January 5th)

Marigold “Goldie” Vance lives and works at the Crossed Palms Resort Hotel in Florida with a whole slew of characters: her dad, Art, the manager of the joint; Cheryl Lebeaux, the concierge and Goldie’s best friend; and Walter Tooey, the hired hotel detective. Her mom, Sylvie, works nearby at the Mermaid Club.

Prepare to be amazed by Goldie’s second middle-grade adventure! The Crossed Palms is hosting the first ever League of Magical Arts Convention, bringing the world’s most renowned and emerging magicians to the resort, including an overeager part-time magician and detective named Derek Von Thurston. When some of the magic starts to go awry, Goldie — and Derek — are on the case! Can Goldie uncover the saboteur before the final act goes live?

Based on Hope Larson and Brittney Williams’s critically acclaimed Goldie Vance comic, this thrilling novel explores a never-before-seen caper and features 8 full-color comic pages essential to unraveling the mystery.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Meow or Never by Jazz Taylor (January 5th)

Avery Williams can sing, but that doesn’t mean she can sing in front of people. She likes to stay backstage at her new school, which is where, to her surprise, she finds a cat tucked away into a nook. Avery names the stray Phantom and visits any time she’s feeling stressed (which is a lot these days).

As she sings to Phantom one day, her crush, Nic, overhears her and ropes Avery into auditioning for the school’s musical. Despite her nerves, Avery lands the lead role!

She knows she should be excited, but mostly Avery is terrified. Can Phantom help her through her stage fright? And what will happen if anyone finds out about her secret pet?

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Middletown by Sarah Moon (April 6th)

Thirteen-year-old Eli likes baggy clothes, baseball caps, and one girl in particular. Her seventeen-year-old sister Anna is more traditionally feminine; she loves boys and staying out late. They are sisters, and they are also the only family each can count on. Their dad has long been out of the picture, and their mom lives at the mercy of her next drink. When their mom lands herself in enforced rehab, Anna and Eli are left to fend for themselves. With no legal guardian to keep them out of foster care, they take matters into their own hands: Anna masquerades as Aunt Lisa, and together she and Eli hoard whatever money they can find. But their plans begin to unravel as quickly as they were made, and they are always way too close to getting caught.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Thanks a Lot, Universe by Chad Lucas (May 11th)

Brian has always been anxious, whether at home, or in class, or on the basketball court. His dad tries to get him to stand up for himself and his mom helps as much as she can, but after he and his brother are placed in foster care, Brian starts having panic attacks. And he doesn’t know if things will ever be “normal” again . . . Ezra’s always been popular. He’s friends with most of the kids on his basketball team—even Brian, who usually keeps to himself. But now, some of his friends have been acting differently, and Brian seems to be pulling away. Ezra wants to help, but he worries if he’s too nice to Brian, his friends will realize that he has a crush on him . . .

But when Brian and his brother run away, Ezra has no choice but to take the leap and reach out. Both boys have to decide if they’re willing to risk sharing parts of themselves they’d rather hide. But if they can be brave, they might just find the best in themselves—and each other.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Hazel Bly and the Deep Blue Sea by Ashley Herring Blake (May 25th)

Hazel Bly used to live in the perfect house with the perfect family in sunny California. But when a kayaking trip goes horribly wrong, Mum is suddenly gone forever and Hazel is left with crippling anxiety and a jagged scar on her face. After Mum’s death, Hazel, her other mother, Mama, and her little sister, Peach, needed a fresh start. So for the last two years, the Bly girls have lived all over the country, never settling anywhere for more than a few months.

When the family arrives in Rose Harbor, Maine, there’s a wildness to the small town that feels like magic. But when Mama runs into an old childhood friend—Claire—suddenly Hazel’s tight-knit world is infiltrated. To make it worse, she has a daughter Hazel’s age, Lemon, who can’t stop rambling on and on about the Rose Maid, a local 150-year-old mermaid myth.

Soon, Hazel finds herself just as obsessed with the Rose Maid as Lemon is—because what if magic were real? What if grief really could change you so much, you weren’t even yourself anymore? And what if instead you emerged from the darkness stronger than before?

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

How to Become a Planet by Nicole Melleby (May 25th)

For Pluto, summer has always started with a trip to the planetarium. It’s the launch to her favorite season, which also includes visits to the boardwalk arcade, working in her mom’s pizzeria, and her best friend Meredith’s birthday party. But this summer, none of that feels possible.

A month before the end of the school year, Pluto’s frightened mom broke down Pluto’s bedroom door. What came next were doctor’s appointments, a diagnosis of depression, and a big black hole that still sits on Pluto’s chest, making it too hard to do anything.

Pluto can’t explain to her mom why she can’t do the things she used to love. And it isn’t until Pluto’s dad threatens to make her move with him to the city—where he believes his money, in particular, could help—that Pluto becomes desperate enough to do whatever it takes to be the old Pluto again.

She develops a plan and a checklist: If she takes her medication, if she goes to the planetarium with her mom for her birthday, if she successfully finishes her summer school work with her tutor, if she goes to Meredith’s birthday party . . . if she does all the things that “normal” Pluto would do, she can stay with her mom in Jersey. But it takes a new therapist, a new tutor, and a new (and cute) friend with a checklist and plan of her own for Pluto to learn that there is no old and new Pluto. There’s just her.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Almost Flying by Jake Maia Arlow (June 8th)

Would-be amusement park aficionado Dalia only has two items on her summer bucket list: (1) finally ride a roller coaster and (2) figure out how to make a new best friend. But when her dad suddenly announces that he’s engaged, Dalia’s schemes come to a screeching halt. With Dalia’s future stepsister Alexa heading back to college soon, the grown-ups want the girls to spend the last weeks of summer bonding–meaning Alexa has to cancel the amusement park road trip she’s been planning for months. Luckily Dalia comes up with a new plan: If she joins Alexa on her trip and brings Rani, the new girl from her swim team, along maybe she can have the perfect summer after all. But what starts out as a week of funnel cakes and Lazy River rides goes off the rails when Dalia discovers that Alexa’s girlfriend is joining the trip. And keeping Alexa’s secret makes Dalia realize one of her own: She might have more-than-friend feelings for Rani.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Both Can Be True by Jules Machias (June 8th)

Ash is no stranger to feeling like an outcast. For someone who cycles through genders, it’s a daily struggle to feel in control of how people perceive you. Some days Ash is undoubtedly girl, but other times, 100 percent guy. Daniel lacks control too—of his emotions. He’s been told he’s overly sensitive more times than he can count. He can’t help the way he is, and he sure wishes someone would accept him for it.

So when Daniel’s big heart leads him to rescue a dog that’s about to be euthanized, he’s relieved to find Ash willing to help. The two bond over their four-legged secret. When they start catching feelings for each other, however, things go from cute to complicated. Daniel thinks Ash is all girl . . . what happens when he finds out there’s more to Ash’s story?

With so much on the line—truth, identity, acceptance, and the life of an adorable pup named Chewbarka—will Ash and Daniel forever feel at war with themselves because they don’t fit into the world’s binaries? Or will their friendship help them embrace the beauty of living in between?

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Uncertainty as Opportunity: Why It’s Okay To Not Know Everything About Your Identity Right Away, A Guest Post By Ana on the Edge Author A.J. Sass

Today on the site I am so excited to be welcoming A.J. Sass, author of the groundbreaking middle grade contemporary Ana on the Edge, which releases today from Little, Brown Young Readers. Here’s a little more about the book:

For fans of George and Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World, a heartfelt coming of age story about a nonbinary character navigating a binary world.

Twelve-year-old Ana-Marie Jin, the reigning US Juvenile figure skating champion, is not a frilly dress kind of kid. So, when Ana learns that next season’s program will be princess themed, doubt forms fast. Still, Ana tries to focus on training and putting together a stellar routine worthy of national success.

Once Ana meets Hayden, a transgender boy new to the rink, thoughts about the princess program and gender identity begin to take center stage. And when Hayden mistakes Ana for a boy, Ana doesn’t correct him and finds comfort in this boyish identity when he’s around. As their friendship develops, Ana realizes that it’s tricky juggling two different identities on one slippery sheet of ice. And with a major competition approaching, Ana must decide whether telling everyone the truth is worth risking years of hard work and sacrifice.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

And here’s the post!

A month after I started hormone replacement therapy, my friends threw me a “T-party” in San Francisco’s Dolores Park. I’d recently come out as trans and chosen a name that has stayed with me to this day: Andrew. And pronouns? He, him, and his, because I’m a guy, obviously.

Hold that thought.

I remember that afternoon well. It was unusually warm for a July in San Francisco, and the outing felt festive, reminiscent of a Pride Month weekend just a few weeks earlier. I was surrounded by friends who’d supported me as I navigated both my social and medical transition. My world felt full of potential. Finally, I could focus on living my life rather than on coming out to everyone and the emotional labor that entailed.

Just the same, I found myself shrugging when a friend jokingly asked if, two injections into my transition, I’d noticed any physical changes yet.

“Not yet,” I’d said. Then, a slight hesitation before I admitted, “honestly, I’m not even sure I feel like a man at this point.”

“Give it time,” my friends who’d been on testosterone (T) longer encouraged me. “It’ll happen, especially when strangers stop misgendering you.”

Their advice was well-meaning and, I suspect, a truth for many folks who’ve pursued this particular avenue of transition. So I waited, and I hoped my feelings would change on a similar trajectory with my body.

They didn’t.

I can’t remember the first time I heard the word nonbinary. Maybe I read an interview online or it came up in a casual conversation. What I do remember is the immediate connection I felt to its definition:

Nonbinary: not relating to, composed of, or involving just two things.

That’s me. I knew instantly.

So why did it take me another four years to decide to discontinue T and even longer to publicly announce my identity? Simple: I didn’t want to be a burden. I’d just come out as a trans man to my friends and family, then had to approach my workplace’s HR department to change my name and pronouns. There was a nagging concern that I’d be inconveniencing people after I’d already asked them to use one new name and set of pronouns.

And what if I realized that different pronouns worked better for me later on? How many times could I come out to people before they got fed up?

By the time I wrote Ana on the Edge, I was more or less comfortable being seen as a man in my public life, even if it didn’t perfectly describe who I am. But, as writing often does when you’re delving into something personal, Ana’s journey to discovering her nonbinary identity brought to the surface feelings and thoughts about my own.

I created an ending to Ana’s story that left things open, one that sent readers the message that, “hey, this kid now knows she’s nonbinary, but she doesn’t have everything figured out yet, and that’s okay.” But it wasn’t until relatively late in the drafting process—after I’d revised the story enough to begin querying agents—that I realized the same logic could be applied to myself.

It was a revelation that allowed me to critically evaluate how I wanted to be seen as an author who plans to continue exploring queer themes in the kidlit space. In a way, Ana, my fictional ‘enby bean’ ice skater, taught me that not knowing everything about myself all at once is not only acceptable but something to embrace. And the individuals who might not be so enthusiastic about having to learn a new set of pronouns? They’re not people worth being concerned about. My identity—an inherent part of who I am as a living, breathing, feeling human being—is not up for debate no matter how often it happens to evolve, nor is it an inconvenience.

Near the end of Ana’s story, she reflects on the decision not to change her pronouns yet: “Uncertainty feels like less of a burden and more of an opportunity.”

I’ve held that line close to me on the lead-up to publication. Because some people know who they are when they’re young, and that’s entirely valid. But for a long time, the only trans narratives I could find in the media exclusively reflected the experience that you either know you’re trans at a young age or else you’re not really trans.

People aren’t static. Our tastes, interests, and even appearances change as we learn more about ourselves over time. Why not the understanding of our internal sense of self, as well? Instead of the shame I’m tempted to feel for inconveniencing people when I learn something new about myself, Ana helped me acknowledge that my identity is my own, even at times when I’ve been uncertain about some aspect of it.

Maybe you were twelve like Ana when you discovered your identity or well into adulthood like I was. Maybe you’re still trying to figure it out now; that’s also perfectly fine. The wonderful thing about identity is it has no expiration date. Sit back, enjoy the journey, and celebrate every new discovery.

Parties (T, tea, or otherwise) are also highly recommended.

***

A. J. Sass is a writer, editor, and occasional mentor. A long-time figure skater, he has passed his U.S. Figure Skating Senior Moves in the Field and Free Skate tests, medaled twice at the U.S. Synchronized Skating Championships, and currently dabbles in ice dance. When he’s not exploring the world as much as possible, A. J. lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his boyfriend and two cats who act like dogs. Ana on the Edge is his first novel.

New Release Spotlight: Cattywampus by Ash Van Otterloo

Magic in Appalachia? Rival families working against each other? An intersex protagonist? In Middle Grade Fantasy?? There are so many reasons to check out Cattywampus by debut author Ash van Otterloo (who already has another queer MG, A Touch of Ruckus, on the books for 2021! But first, let’s get to the book at hand!

In the town of Howler’s Hollow, conjuring magic is strictly off-limits. Only nothing makes Delpha McGill’s skin crawl more than rules. So when she finds her family’s secret book of hexes, she’s itching to use it to banish her mama’s money troubles. She just has to keep it quieter than a church mouse — not exactly Delpha’s specialty.

Trouble is, Katybird Hearn is hankering to get her hands on the spell book, too. The daughter of a rival witching family, Katy has reasons of her own for wanting to learn forbidden magic, and she’s not going to let an age-old feud or Delpha’s contrary ways stop her. But their quarrel accidentally unleashes a hex so heinous it resurrects a graveyard full of angry Hearn and McGill ancestors bent on total destruction. If Delpha and Katy want to reverse the spell in time to save everyone in the Hollow from rampaging zombies, they’ll need to mend fences and work together.

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