Tag Archives: Middle Grade

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)

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.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

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?

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

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.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

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.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

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?

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

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.

Better Know an Author: Kyle Lukoff

I am truly beyond excited to have Kyle Lukoff on the site today to discuss his work, and if you think I’m exaggerating, please know that this is the first interview I’ve been able to do in like a year because so many questions burst out of my it was like my excitement shook me out of a cursed state. His newest is his debut Middle Grade, Too Bright to See, which has received approximately as many stars as the sky in Montana, and he’s here to talk about that, his other work, and some pretty fascinating current events!

First of all, huge congrats on your first Middle Grade! Too Bright to See is such a beautiful book, and it’s fascinating to see a book for young readers so grounded in death. How did you come to choose that approach to tell Bug’s journey?

Thank you!!

54786049. sy475 The brainstorm that led to this book was the decision that instead of writing two different middle grade novels (a trans boy book and a ghost story using an old writing prompt of my dad’s), I could kill two birds with one stone. So I never intended to write a book about death, loss, and grief, but for there to be a ghost there has to be a dead person, and a relationship between the dead person and the alive person, so that part came about almost as an afterthought. But I have always loved kids books about death–I have really strong memories of The Tenth Good Thing About Barney, and read The Bridge to Terabithia countless times, and as a kid I always felt like the books that dealt with death well were the only books being honest to kids, about how sometimes bad things happen and then you feel bad. I didn’t have any experience with death as a kid (aside from a few pets), but felt bad a lot, and think I channeled a lot of that into Too Bright To See.

Bug finds some wonderful acceptance among friends, which is a really great thing to see on the page, especially for readers who could use the encouragement of knowing it’s possible, but it also reminded me of the first time I was on a queer panel where we got a question about whether we were “making it look too easy” by writing happy stories. What’s your feeling on portraying happier vs. harsher experiences in queer and/or trans lit?

Well! If anyone accuses me of “making it look too easy” I will invite them to look around at a) the world and b) the vast majority of books featuring trans kids and how they also feature transphobia. If they are concerned that showing positive responses to coming out will give kids the wrong idea, they’ll be thrilled to learn that my approach is a distinct aberration.

I do like writing positive experiences of coming out, in some ways fo idealistic reasons–showing kids, parents, siblings, etc. that it is possible, that you can respond with love and acceptance, and that there’s no earthly reason to do anything else. But the real reason I don’t focus on transphobia in my books is because, quite frankly, I don’t find it interesting. I’ve experienced plenty of it in my life. It’s hard, and it’s bad. But it’s also boring, because instead of just getting on with my day, I have to deal with some cis person and their ignorant and/or hateful ideas, none of which are new, or unique, or interesting, or intellectually sound, they’re all just rehashed and reheated talking points from before I was born. I’d rather write books about trans characters getting on with their lives instead of reacting to other people’s banal, unimaginative prejudice or bigotry.

Speaking of both happy and harsh experiences, you’ve had quite a 2021 so far, which is culminating in your traveling to the Utah State Capitol to give a reading and speech at a rally for LGBTQ+ Inclusion in Schools. Can you walk us through the events here and maybe give us a glimpse into what your visit?

“Culminating” is an optimistic word for May! But, yes, it’s been a Lot. Basically, what happened is that a school district outside of Salt Lake City decided to “pause” a program distributing books to kids that focused on progressive themes, mostly racial justice, because a child brought one of my books (which wasn’t even included in that program) to school and asked his teacher to read it. It turned into a tremendous transphobic kerfuffle, and teachers used it as a catalyst to organize a rally calling for more LGBTQ+ inclusion in schools. You can read my speech on my website here. Also, one month later a similar situation erupted outside of Austin, Texas.

I am 37 years old, came out as trans when I was around twenty, and have spent most of my adult life just being some guy doing stuff. It’s strange and upsetting to suddenly have to convince or remind people that we share a common humanity, and that my trans identity is one aspect of my lived experience rather than a rhetorical gotcha or a talking point. It’s also, as I said, boring. But I also feel really grateful that I’m only doing this work now that I’m firmly set into my life as a trans adult, because I can’t imagine what it must be like to have to advocate for yourself when you’re just discovering who that is.

You’ve now published books for three different age groups, but the Max and Friends series in particular is targeted to one that feels extremely left behind in queer literature. Why do you think that is, and do you have any recommendations for other LGBTQ+ titles for the early reader (or “pre-MG”) age group?

51648108. sx318 sy475 Early readers across the board have been in need of diversification for a long time. I can’t speak to why that is, but entrenched conservative opinions in publishing are likely the cause of it! Just, longstanding ideas of what is “right” for kids, and who exactly they think of when they think of “kids.” These are also books that are more likely to be selected by parents and educators, and then disseminated to kids, instead of kids choosing for themselves.

And then, well, it is tricky to organically incorporate LGBTQ themes into books for younger audiences. You can have those identities among parents, siblings, community members, etc., but the stories should be focused on the children. And little kids are still in so many ways forming their identities, that it’s challenging to honestly represent how a queer identity might manifest in someone that age. I would love to see what other authors come up with, because I’m kind of out of ideas!

We of course also must discuss When Aidan Became a Brother, your beautiful and critically acclaimed picture book illustrated by Kaylani Juanita. What was that collaborative process like, especially for a book so close to you personally?

39987021Authors typically have very little, if any, collaboration with their illustrators! When it came to Aidan, Kaylani had free rein to interpret my words in a way that matched her creative vision for the story–the outfits, the setting, the emotional tenor of each scene. She’s Black and Filipina, which is why she depicted Aidan’s family that way, and I love telling kids about how we both put parts of our story into this book.

I did ask for a few small changes–the only one I remember is something hinting at what Aidan’s old name was, but since I never imagined what his name used to be, I asked to replace that detail because I didn’t want to give people permission to speculate. But I largely trusted her, not just because I’m not a visually-minded person, and now I can’t imagine the book any other way.

Also, Aidan is not especially close to me personally. It is close to me politically, in that I have a lot of opinions about transmasculinity and misogyny, parental responsibility, gender reveal parties, etc. etc., but my life story isn’t at all close to Aidan’s–I came out when I was in college, I don’t have a little sibling, etc. etc. I might feel more protective if someone were to make a picture book biography of me! (no one do that ever please and thank you).

You have so much professional experience with children, and prior to COVID, school visits were also a big part of being an author for you. What do you think adult authors of queer literature for kids misunderstand the most about their audiences, and what should they keep in mind when writing for them?

Kids are entire human beings with inner lives and moral compasses all their own, and you cannot mold a person’s sense of self by just telling them what to think. I read a lot of scenes in books (not just queer-themed) where there are moments that are so clearly didactic, imparting important lessons about intersectionality or assimilation or privilege or what-have-you, and I’m not sure if those land as clearly as the authors are hoping they will. When I read middle grade novels aloud to my students, I would often stop to discuss important scenes, and what kids took away from them was often nothing like what the author had intended (in some cases I knew the author and could ask about their intent, in other cases it was just clear to me as an adult). So I wish authors focused more on telling a story and allowing for varied answers to complex questions, instead of trying to tell kids what they should believe. I’m definitely guilty of that too, so I’m also telling this to myself.

Of all the age groups you’ve written for, is there one that’s closest to your heart and/or one you feel is most specifically in need of trans literature written by an actual trans person? Is there one you simply prefer most from a craft perspective?

Fifth grade is very close to my heart, because that’s the year my students graduate from the school I worked at–so, they were generally the kids I knew the longest (the 5th grade class of 2021 includes students I met when they were two!), and it was incredible to watch them develop into sophisticated, mature thinkers. When I write middle grade I think, more than anything, of my fifth grade students, because in one class a kid might be re-reading Wimpy Kid and another might be tackling The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks or The Martian (true story!). I love trying to reach all those kids at once.

I do think that all ages would benefit from trans-themed books by trans writers, because…well, why not? I feel really grateful I’ve been able to build a career in so many different genres (more to come! including a board book! keep an eye out for announcements) and want that for my peers.

From a craft perspective, I will always love the challenge of writing as much as possible in as few words as possible. I’ve been branching out into more creative structures; I have one book coming out that is the simplest story imaginable, told in a complex rhyme scheme that I think I invented, and that is the most fun I’ve putting a book together (well, “fun” in that I pulled out my notebook during an evening of existential despair, and putting words together like jigsaw pieces helped). I have another forthcoming project that’s an epistolary picture book, and I loved the restrictions that puts on the story. Basically the more restrictions on a project the more fun I have with it–someday I might attempt a novel written in blank verse or just (“just”) iambic pentameter, but that might be too ambitious.

I imagine launching your debut novel in a pandemic sucks, even if it’s not your first published work. What do you feel like you missed out on the most as a result, and were there any pleasant surprises that came with it? How did you celebrate?

It does suck! One piece of gratitude I’ve been holding onto, though, is that Aidan came out in 2019, and I took that fall off from my day job (which I’ve since quit) to travel all over the country. If I had had to cancel all that, I don’t know what kind of emotional state I’d be in (not a good one, I think!) so I have so much sympathy for my author friends debuting into this.

So, I know a lot of what I missed out on–baths in hotel rooms that someone else paid for, kid-made signs welcoming me to their school, a significant percentage of my projected income. But on the other hand, I don’t think I would have made my deadline for novel #2 if I hadn’t been just home writing. I also sold a bunch of other projects, for a bunch of different age groups. Too Bright To See still got six starred reviews. I still got to launch with Maulik, which was dreamy. I’m not good at celebrating in the best of times, but right after the virtual launch a neighborhood friend took me out for a beer and some microwaved crinkle fries. It was really nice weather, and I think it’ll be a good memory, everything aside.

Of course there’s already a lot of work under your belt in such a short time, but are there any other categories or genres you’d really like to publish that you haven’t attempted yet?

I love writing short stories (for adults) and have a lot of them that I keep trying to get published and they keep getting rejected! I am also not trying very hard, I suppose, because that whole process is really unpleasant. But in general I would love to branch out into adult fiction, not least of which because I’m worried that all the fun and cool adult trans writers think that I’m the FTM Mr. Rogers and I want them to think that I’m a fun and cool grown-up too.

Are there any queer and/or trans books you’d particularly like to recommend, especially if you don’t think they’ve gotten sufficient airtime?

So, my favorite thing is intra-community conflict and dialogue. As I said earlier, about why I don’t really write about transphobia, I simply don’t think that anything cis/straight people have to say about trans/queer people is interesting, but I am endlessly fascinated with how we treat each other, and how conflict within LGBTQIA+ communities play out, in both deadly serious ways and more frivolous ones. There are quite a few authors doing this, but I especially love Lev Rosen’s YA novels Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts) and Camp.

What’s up next for you?

I’m really excited for my first nonfiction picture book, a biography that I wrote with Gavin Grimm. He’s the trans activist who, as a teenager, worked with the ACLU (and Chase Strangio) to fight his school’s bathroom policy. It’s called If You’re A Kid Like Gavin, and will be out in summer of ’22 from Katherine Tegen Books, illustrated by J Yang. I also have…um…5? or 6? new books that haven’t been announced yet, so keep an eye out for those as well!

***

(c) Erin Jones-Le
Cat: Jasmine

Kyle Lukoff writes books for kids and other people. Right now you can read his debut middle grade novel TOO BRIGHT TO SEE, A STORYTELLING OF RAVENS, WHEN AIDAN BECAME A BROTHER (which won the 2020 Stonewall Award!), the MAX AND FRIENDS series, and EXPLOSION AT THE POEM FACTORY. You will be able to read more books by him in the next years, including a non-fiction picture book about teenage trans activist Gavin Grimm, and a book for babies.

Kyle spent eight years as an elementary school librarian, but now he writes full time and presents on children’s and youth literature all across the country. He got hired at a bookstore when he was sixteen, which means he’s been working at the intersection of books and people for well over half his life.

Kyle is represented by Saba Sulaiman at Talcott Notch. Find him on Twitter at @KyleLukoff and Facebook at fb.me/kylelukoffwrites. All purchasing links are through his affiliate page at Bookshop.org.

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.

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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

Exclusive Excerpt Reveal: Rainbow Revolutionaries by Sarah Prager

Sarah Prager is no stranger to LGBTQIAP+ history books; her first, Queer, There, and Everywhere, received numerous accolades and was named a New York Public Library Best Book of 2017. I’m thrilled to have her on the site today to reveal an exclusive excerpt from her upcoming middle grade follow-up, Rainbow Revolutionaries: 50 LGBTQ+ People Who Made History, which is illustrated by Sarah Papworth and releasing from HarperCollins on May 26th! (And pssst: Sarah’s holding an online launch party the same day! See details here.) Here’s the blurb:

Cover art by Sarah Papworth, cover design by Alison Klapthor

Take a journey through the lives of fifty revolutionary queer figures who made history in this groundbreaking illustrated biography collection from the author of Queer, There, and Everywhere. Did you ever wonder who invented the computer? Or who advised Martin Luther King Jr. on his nonviolent activism? Author Sarah Prager and illustrator Sarah Papworth bring to life the vibrant histories of fifty pioneering LGBTQ+ people our history books forgot to mention. Delve into the lives of Wen of Han, a Chinese emperor who loved his boyfriend as much as his people; Martine Rothblatt, a trans woman who’s helping engineer the robots of tomorrow, and so many more! From athletes (Billie Jean King) to doctors (Magnus Hirschfeld) and activists (Marsha P. Johnson) to painters (Frida Kahlo), LGBTQ+ people have made their mark on every century of human existence. This book is a celebration of the many ways these hidden heroes have made a difference and will inspire young readers to make a difference, too.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | Bookshop | All She Wrote Books (signed)

And here’s the excerpt, with gorgeous illustrations from Sarah Papworth!

Frieda Belinfante

Copyright Sarah Papworth 2020

Frieda came from a musical family in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and started playing cello when she was ten. Her sister says that because Frieda had small hands, she had to wrestle to handle the large instrument. Frieda conquered the cello just like she took on other difficulties in life.

Frieda, who was a lesbian, got the chance to try her hand at something else musical besides the cello—conducting. There she found her true passion. She was so talented at conducting student musicians that she got the opportunity to conduct a professional orchestra. Her friends were skeptical that she could pull it off—no woman had ever conducted a professional orchestra before in Europe! In 1937 Frieda tried . . . and succeeded.

But Frieda had to disband her orchestra in 1940 because of World War II. Frieda put her steady hands to work by forging fake identity documents for Jews. At that time in the Netherlands, the Nazis were trying to find all the Jewish people. Everyone was required to carry identification, so Frieda made documents for Jewish people to carry that said they weren’t Jewish, so they could escape. It was dangerous work, but Frieda knew it was the right thing to do.

She even helped plan a bombing of Amsterdam’s city hall so that all the original IDs were destroyed and Jewish people would be protected. After the bombing, in 1943, Frieda had to go into hiding. The Nazis captured many of the activists she had worked with on the attack, but Frieda disguised herself as a man and was able to go undetected for weeks. Her male look was so convincing that her own mother didn’t recognize her when she passed her on the street. Then Frieda escaped to Switzerland, crossing snowy mountains and fording icy rivers (even though she couldn’t swim) to get to a place where she could survive.

After the war, Frieda wanted a new life, so she moved to Southern California— somewhere to warm her heart after all the horrors she had seen. Years after her orchestra had been ended by the war, she got the chance to be a conductor again, this time with the Orange County Philharmonic until 1962. She spent her life breaking barriers in music and heroically helping people in need.

Tshepo Ricki Kgositau 

Copyright Sarah Papworth 2020

Ricki didn’t just change her own life on December 12, 2017—she changed the lives of many more. On that day, a high court in her country of Botswana ruled in her favor in a historic case. But we’ll hear more about that later.

Before she was making history, Ricki was an energetic fashion-loving child playing house in rural southern Botswana, playing the part of the mommy (raising the curiosity of those around her because she had been assigned male at birth). She loved to steal her grandma’s food to pretend to cook, and play with makeup and high heels. When she moved to the capital, Gabarone, her kindergarten teachers called her parents in for a meeting to tell them there was something wrong with their “son,” who kept asking to be called a girl.

It took until middle school for Ricki’s transition to be respected. Her family got on board, and a supportive teacher encouraged her. In high school, Ricki still had to wear the boys’ uniform, but she dressed it up with bangles and wore makeup. It wasn’t until she saw Oprah’s special on Jazz Jennings on TV that she realized there was a word for who she was: trans.

One day in 2010, Ricki lost her Botswana national ID card. For someone else, getting it replaced would have been a routine inconvenience. However, when Ricki went to get it replaced, she was told that because the lost ID said she was male and she presented as female, they couldn’t give her a new one. This inconsistency around her sex on this little piece of laminated paper would turn into a years-long legal battle.

Ricki just wanted her new ID—she needed it for important things like getting a job. But to get it she needed to hire a lawyer and take on the entire government of Botswana! The case became about much more than Ricki’s ID—it would go on to affect trans rights in all of Africa. If Ricki won, it would mean no trans person in Botswana would have to go through this ordeal again. And in 2017, she won!

There was one thing left to do that her new female ID opened the door to—get married. Ricki happily wedded her love, Beltony Kanza, in 2018 in Botswana. (Always the fashionista, she designed her wedding dress herself.) This is just the beginning of her life story—and of the struggle for trans rights across her continent.

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Sarah Prager is an advocate for queer history education particularly for youth. HarperCollins published her first book, Queer, There, and Everywhere: 23 People Who Changed the World, on May 23, 2017. The book received three starred reviews, was named an official selection of the Junior Library Guild, received five award nominations, and was named a Best Book for Teens 2017 by New York Public Library and Chicago Public Library. Her second book, Rainbow Revolutionaries: 50 LGBTQ+ People Who Made History, will be published by HarperCollins Children’s on May 26, 2020 and is currently available for pre-order. It has already been named a Junior Library Guild selection. Sarah’s writing has been published in The Atlantic, The Advocate, HuffPost, QED: A Journal in GLBTQ Worldmaking, Bustle, JSTOR Daily, them, Xtra, GO Magazine, Tagg Magazine, and various other outlets. Sarah has presented on LGBTQIA+ history to over 140 groups across five countries, including the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, Harvard Business School, and Microsoft HQ in Times Square. She lives with her wife, two children, and three cats in central Massachusetts. www.sarahprager.com.

Exclusive Cover Reveal: Pepper’s Rules for Secret Sleuthing by Briana McDonald

Queer Middle Grade has seriously been picking up the past couple of years, and I’m especially excited to see expanding into different genres! Pepper’s Rules for Secret Sleuthing by Briana McDonald is an MG mystery starring amateur detective Pepper Blouse, who’s got a case to solve and a crush on a girl, and it releases from Simon & Schuster BFYR on September 29, 2020. Here’s the story:

peppers-rules-for-secret-sleuthing-cvr

Amateur detective Pepper Blouse has always held true to this rule, even if it meant pushing people away. But when the results of Pepper’s latest case cost her any hope of the girl she likes returning her feelings, she decides that maybe she should lay low for a while.

That is, until her Great Aunt Florence passes away under mysterious circumstances. And even though her dad insists there’s nothing to investigate, Pepper can’t just ignore rule fourteen: Trust your gut.

But there’s nothing in the rulebook that could’ve prepared her for this.

Maybe it’s time to stop playing by the rules.

And here’s the cover, designed by Krista Vossen and illustrated by Aveline Stokart!

Buy it:  Amazon | IndieBound

18539046Briana McDonald’s debut middle grade novel, Pepper’s Rules for Secret Sleuthing, will be available through Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers in Fall 2020. Her fiction has appeared in several university presses and journals. She reviews prose at The Literary Review and a reader for CLMP’s Firecracker Awards.

When she’s not writing, Briana works as an Academic Advisor at Columbia University.

New Release Spotlight: The Deep & Dark Blue by Niki Smith

Queer Middle Grade is having a banner year, and there’s no better way to kick it off than with this killer fantasy graphic novel by debut Niki Smith, about siblings who must disguise themselves as girls in order to escape a murderous, rebellious relative. But for one of them, “girl” isn’t truly a disguise, and the idea of saving the day and returning things to their original state is bittersweet, especially since girl-dom has come with a lovely new role she’s wholeheartedly embraced.

After a terrible political coup usurps their noble house, Hawke and Grayson flee to stay alive and assume new identities, Hanna and Grayce. Desperation and chance lead them to the Communion of Blue, an order of magical women who spin the threads of reality to their will.

As the twins learn more about the Communion, and themselves, they begin to hatch a plan to avenge their family and retake their royal home.While Hawke wants to return to his old life, Grayce struggles to keep the threads of her new life from unraveling, and realizes she wants to stay in the one place that will allow her to finally live as a girl.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Exclusive Cover Reveal: Middle School’s a Drag, You Better Werk by Greg Howard

Remember that gorgeous middle grade that released this past January, The Whispers by Greg Howard, that may or may not have had you crying into your cornflakes? Well, the author’s back,  and something about this delightful cover tells me no tears are intended in this followup, Middle School’s a Drag, You Better Werk, which releases from Penguin Young Readers on February 11, 2020! Heres the gist:

In this heartfelt and hilarious new novel from Greg Howard, an enterprising boy starts his own junior talent agency and signs a thirteen-year-old aspiring drag queen as his first client.

Twelve-year-old Mikey Pruitt–president, founder, and CEO of Anything, Inc.–has always been an entrepreneur at heart. Inspired by his grandfather Pap Pruitt, who successfully ran all sorts of businesses from a car wash to a roadside peanut stand, Mikey is still looking for his million-dollar idea. Unfortunately, most of his ideas so far have failed. A baby tornado ran off with his general store, and the kids in his neighborhood never did come back for their second croquet lesson. But Mikey is determined to keep at it.

It isn’t until kid drag queen Coco Caliente, Mistress of Madness and Mayhem (aka eighth grader Julian Vasquez) walks into his office (aka his family’s storage/laundry room) looking for an agent that Mikey thinks he’s finally found his million-dollar idea, and the Anything Talent and Pizzazz Agency is born!

Soon, Mikey has a whole roster of kid clients looking to hit it big or at least win the middle school talent show’s hundred-dollar prize. As newly out Mikey prepares Julian for the gig of a lifetime, he realizes there’s no rulebook for being gay–and if Julian can be openly gay at school, maybe Mikey can, too, and tell his crush, dreamy Colton Sanford, how he feels.

Full of laughs, sass, and hijinks, this hilarious, heartfelt story shows that with a little effort and a lot of love, anything is possible.

And here’s the fabulous cover, illustrated by Michael DiMotta!

 

Preorder: Amazon | B&NIndieBound

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(c) Jamie Wright Images

Born and raised in the South Carolina Lowcountry, Greg Howard’s love of words and story blossomed at a young age. Originally set on becoming a famous songwriter and following that dream to the bright lights of Nashville, Tennessee, Greg spent years producing the music of others before eventually returning to his childhood passion of writing stories. Greg writes young adult and middle grade novels focusing on LGBTQ characters and issues. He has an unhealthy obsession with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and currently resides in Nashville with his three rescued fur babies–Molly, Toby, and Riley. Connect with Greg at www.greghowardbooks.com or on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter: @greghowardbooks