Tag Archives: Scholastic

Exclusive Cover Reveal: King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender

I don’t know what we did to get so lucky, but queer kidlit seriously struck gold when it got Kacen Callender, who seems to be multiplying their glorious catalog every five minutes. Their first MG, Hurricane Child, is both a Lambda and Stonewall award winner, so you know this newest, King and the Dragonflies, which releases from Scholastic on February 4, 2020, had better fly onto your TBR ASAP! Here are the details:

In a small but turbulent Louisiana town, one boy’s grief takes him beyond the bayous of his backyard, to learn that there is no right way to be yourself.

Twelve-year-old Kingston James is sure his brother Khalid has turned into a dragonfly. When Khalid unexpectedly passed away, he shed what was his first skin for another to live down by the bayou in their small Louisiana town. Khalid still visits in dreams, and King must keep these secrets to himself as he watches grief transform his family.

It would be easier if King could talk with his best friend, Sandy Sanders. But just days before he died, Khalid told King to end their friendship, after overhearing a secret about Sandy—that he thinks he might be gay. “You don’t want anyone to think you’re gay too, do you?”

But when Sandy goes missing, sparking a town-wide search, and King finds his former best friend hiding in a tent in his backyard, he agrees to help Sandy escape from his abusive father, and the two begin an adventure as they build their own private paradise down by the bayou and among the dragonflies. As King’s friendship with Sandy is reignited, he’s forced to confront questions about himself and the reality of his brother’s death.

The Thing About Jellyfish meets The Stars Beneath Our Feet in this story about loss, grief, and finding the courage to discover one’s identity, from the award-winning author of Hurricane Child.

And here’s the incredibly stunning cover, with art by Tonya Engel and design by Baily Crawford!

Preorder: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

But wait, there’s more! Keep reading for a guest post by author Kacen Callender on the inspiration behind the book!

Elizabeth Gilbert has a beautiful TedTalk on the expectations of artists, and the concept that there’s a source of ideas and creativity that we humans are sometimes granted access to. It’s a thought that’s stuck with me for years now: that writers are only tools who tap into some sort of stream of energy and creativity, gifted with stories by the universe—stories that the divine wants us to tell.

It may seem a little too New Age-y for some, but I feel this is true even more after my experience with King and the Dragonflies. I had a deadline approaching and sat down to write the novel, nervous and unsure of where the story would go, or what I wanted to say. As if I’d heard a whisper, I suddenly knew that the main character was a boy named King, and that he thought his brother Khalid had turned into a dragonfly. Almost the entirety of King and the Dragonflies came to me as though a dream over the next few weeks after that, spilling onto the page—the fastest manuscript I’ve ever drafted.

When the novel begins, King’s brother Khalid has already unexpectedly and tragically passed away. King has also decided that he can no longer speak to his best friend Sandy because he’s gay, and King is afraid others will think he’s gay as well. It doesn’t help that King is questioning his identity and is afraid that others will learn his secret. As the novel progresses, King struggles with his identity as a gay black boy in the south, centering around something I myself had been told as a child: “Black people can’t be gay. If they are gay, it’s because they’ve been around a white gay person too much.”

It sounds ridiculous, but after writing and sharing this novel with some early readers, I’ve learned that other black people have been told the same thing. We’re in a society that usually only celebrates queer people who are white. Black queer people tend to be invisible, to the point that others have tried to speak us out of existence. If there aren’t enough stories showing black, queer people, then where is the proof that we do exist—not only for ignorant folks, but for the black queer people who need to know that they aren’t alone?

Beyond the idea that black people can’t be queer, there’s also the fear of facing two stigmas: bad enough that we’re black in a racist United States, but to have to face homophobia from all sides, regardless of race, as well? It’s a real fear that many black, queer people struggle with, and one that I explore in King and the Dragonflies for any young reader who worries about the same things.

By the end of the novel, King has evolved, both due to grief for his brother, and for the courage he must find to face his identity. I’ve always been super interested in symbolism in dreams, so months after finishing the first draft and working on revisions, I suddenly had the urge to look up the dream meaning of dragonflies. Change, transformation, self-realization. I can’t think of a stronger symbol for this novel.

Writing King and the Dragonflies was an emotional, raw experience, exactly like waking up from a vivid dream, one that I’m still reeling from in some ways. I can’t take the credit for being a transmitter or antennae of some kind, passing along messages and stories from the beyond, but I can be grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to help share King and his story with the world.

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Backlist Book of the Month: Anything Could Happen by Will Walton

One of the rarer things in gay YA is books geared toward younger teen readers. Walton’s debut is forever on my rec list for having a 14-year-old protag dealing with a crush on his straight best friend and…that’s mostly it. It’s real, it hurts, and it’s life.

When you’re in love with the wrong person for the right reasons, anything could happen.

Tretch lives in a very small town where everybody’s in everybody else’s business. Which makes it hard for him to be in love with his straight best friend. For his part, Matt is completely oblivious to the way Tretch feels – and Tretch can’t tell whether that makes it better or worse.

The problem with living a lie is that the lie can slowly become your life. For Tretch, the problem isn’t just with Matt. His family has no idea who he really is and what he’s really thinking. The girl at the local bookstore has no clue how off-base her crush on him is. And the guy at school who’s a thorn in Tretch’s side doesn’t realize how close to the truth he’s hitting.

Tretch has spent a lot of time dancing alone in his room, but now he’s got to step outside his comfort zone and into the wider world. Because like love, a true self can rarely be contained.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N * Book Depository

 

Fave Five: MGs and YAs with Queer Moms

This Would Make a Good Story Someday by Dana Alison Levy (Contemporary MG)

The New Guy (and Other Senior Year Distractions) by Amy Spalding (Contemporary YA)

Stealing Parker by Miranda Kenneally (Contemporary YA)

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli (Contemporary YA)

Dead Little Mean Girl by Eva Darrows (Contemporary YA)

Bonus, coming in October: 27 Hours by Tristina Wright (Sci-Fi YA)

Bonus #2, coming in 2018: Dear You by Joanne Rocklin (Contemporary MG) and And She Was by Jessica Verdi (Contemporary YA)

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Fave Five: Queer BFF YAs

These are all dual-POV books in which at least one POV belongs to a queer character and the other belongs to a close friend, not a love interest.

Run by Kody Keplinger

You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan

Under the Lights by Dahlia Adler

Meg & Linus by Hanna Nowinski

Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde

Bonus: Fans of the Impossible Life by Kate Scelsa is tri-POV, and two of those POVs belong to BFFs who are a gay guy and a straight girl;

Bonus #2: Radio Silence by Alice Oseman is single POV, but the BFFship is the core relationship of the story, and both BFFs are queer (bi and demi, respectively)

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Backlist Book of the Month: George by Alex Gino

The truth is, I kind of take for granted that everyone’s read this fabulous Stonewall Award-winning MG about a trans girl named Melissa, by the wonderful Alex Gino, but I have to make sure just in case you haven’t, right? And we all want to put our support toward LGBTQIAP+ MG to make sure we get more of it, right? So, if you haven’t fallen in love with this one yet, make this month the month you do! (And yes I realize this isn’t technically a backlist book for the author, but the feature just means a book is more than a year old, so!)

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BE WHO YOU ARE.

When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she’s not a boy. She knows she’s a girl.

George thinks she’ll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte’s Web. George really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can’t even try out for the part . . . because she’s a boy.

With the help of her best friend, Kelly, George comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte — but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all.

To quote from the author’s website on where to buy:

Laurel Bookstore is your most reliable source for signed  copies of GEORGE. GEORGE can also be bought at your favorite book retailer. Independent bookstores like Powell’s, Books Inc, Oblong Books & Music would be glad to help you out or use Indie Bound to find an independent bookstore near you. GEORGE is also available at iBooks, Google Play, or Kobo, Barnes & Noble and Amazon!