2015 Stonewall Book Award

Awarded annually to English-language children’s and young adult books of exceptional merit relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender experience:


This Day in June

This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman, Ph.D., illustrated by Kristyna Litten



Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out I'll Give You the Sun

Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress

Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress by Christine Baldacchio, illustrated by Isabelle Malenfant

Review: Jacob’s New Dress by Sarah and Ian Hoffman

jacobs new dress

Jacob’s New Dress by Sarah and Ian Hoffman, illustrated by Chris Case

At school, Jacob loves to dress up as the princess during play time.  Christopher though doesn’t approve of Jacob wearing girl clothes even to pretend.  Jacob’s teacher steps in and explains that you can imagine being anything you like.  At home, Jacob tells his mother about what Christopher said and she says that he is welcome to get out the dress he wore for Halloween and play in that.  Jacob loves the witch dress and wants to wear it to school, but Jacob’s mother doesn’t think that’s a good idea.  So Jacob creates his own dress from a towel that he wears to school, but Christopher pulls it off at recess and teases Jacob about wearing it.  Back at home, Jacob asks his mother to make him a real dress to wear.  She is reluctant, but agrees, and then Jacob has a new dress that is all his own to wear whenever he wants.

The authors take the issue of gender variance head on in this picture book, keeping it firmly at a level that children will understand.  The focus is on Jacob’s desire to wear a dress, not the complexities of what that may mean to label him in any way.  That makes this a book that is about inclusiveness and bullying as well as addressing the need for children who have gender differences to see themselves in a book.

I also appreciate the way the authors included not just Jacob’s emotions about asking for a dress from his mother, but also her own complex reaction to it.  While the entire exchange was positive and supportive, the pauses placed in the text spoke volumes about the emotions happening at the same time.

Case’s art is colorful and cute.  The characters clearly show their emotions on their faces.  The various dresses that Jacob wears are cleverly depicted.  The lace on his final dress is clear but so are the dirty spots from playing in it. 

An important book for libraries to have, this book will speak to children exploring their own gender roles and would make a great addition to diversity units.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

2014 Lambda Literary Award Finalists

Big thanks to Bookshelves of Doom for a heads up about this! 

The finalists for the 2014 Lambda Literary Awards have been announced.  The finalists for the LGBT Children’s and Young Adult category are:

Better Nate Than Ever Boy in Box Girls I've Run Away With

Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle

Boy in Box by Christopher R. Michael

Girls I’ve Run Away With by Rhiannon Argo

If You Could Be Mine Openly Straight Rapture Practice: A True Story About Growing Up Gay in an Evangelical Family

If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan

Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg

Rapture Practice by Aaron Hartzler

Secret City The Secret Ingredient The Summer Prince

Secret City by Julia Watts

The Secret Ingredient by Stewart Lewis

The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson

Two Boys Kissing What Makes a Baby

Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

What Makes a Baby by Cory Silverberg, illustrated by Fiona Smyth

Review: Five, Six, Seven, Nate! by Tim Federle

five six seven nate

Five, Six, Seven, Nate! by Tim Federle

This sequel to the award-winning Better Nate Than Ever is one of the strongest second books in a series I have read.  After getting cast as ET in the upcoming ET: The Musical, Nate is now living in New York City with his aunt who is also an actress.  But Broadway isn’t everything that Nate has dreamed it would be.  There seems to be a feud between the video-game creator who is their director and the choreographer.  Nate is an understudy and a member of the chorus but he can’t tap dance and is put into extra classes to improve.  But there are also high points.  Nate has a secret admirer who leaves notes and gifts, and he certain he knows who it is.  Nate is also secretly helping another of the ET actors with her lines and they become close friends over manicures.  Like any great Broadway story there are twists and turns and some romance too.  It’s one hell of a second act.

Federle writes in a way that is so easy to read and creates books that are impossible to put down until the final curtain falls.  This ease of reading though is because he is really writing directly for children in a way that is open, honest and speaks to all children whether they are actors or not.  Add in Nate’s questioning his sexual identity and you have a book with plenty of depth.

What Federle does best is to create characters who surprise and delight.  Nate himself captures this.  Nate could come off as a stereotypical actor, but instead because the book is in first person, Nate reveals all of his inner dialogue.  Much of which is screamingly funny.  But Nate is not the only deep character here.  Even tertiary characters are interesting and offer glimpses of how unique they are.  Among the secondary characters, there are many who would make great books all on their own.  Federle is a master of creating characters and making us care for them.

Bravo!  This is a smash production filled with humor and delight.  Appropriate for ages 10-13.

Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

2014 Rainbow List

The Rainbow List represents the best GLBTQ books for children and teens from the American Library Association’s GLBT and SRRT roundtables.

Archenemy (Counterattack) 17671930 Better Nate Than Ever

Archenemy by Paul Hoblin

Batwoman Volume 3: World’s Finest by J. H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman

Better Nate than Ever by Tim Federle

Blue Is the Warmest Color Branded by the Pink Triangle Calling Dr. Laura: A Graphic Memoir

Blue Is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh

Branded by the Pink Triangle by Ken Setterington

Calling Dr. Laura by Nicole Georges

The Culling (The Torch Keeper, #1) Fat Angie Freakboy

The Culling by Steven Dos Santos

Fat Angie by E. E. Charlton-Trujillo

Freakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark

Giraffe People Homo If I Lie

Giraffe People by Jill Malone

Homo by Michael Harris

If I Lie by Corrine Jackson

If You Could Be Mine Kevin Keller: Drive Me Crazy Leap

If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan

Kevin Keller 2: Drive Me Crazy by Dan Parent

Leap by Z. Egloff

Love in the Time of Global Warming (Love in the Time of Global Warming, #1) More Than This My New Gender Workbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Achieving World Peace Through Gender Anarchy and Sex Positivity

Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block

More Than This by Patrick Ness

My New Gender Workbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Achieving World Peace Through Gender Anarchy and Sex Positivity by Kate Bornstein

Openly Straight Pantomime (Pantomime, #1) Proxy (Proxy, #1)

Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg

Pantomime by Laura Lam

Proxy by Alex London

Rapture Practice The Summer Prince Tag Along

Rapture Practice: My One-Way Ticket to Salvation: A True Story by Aaron Hartzler

The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson

Tag Along by Tom Ryan

Two Boys Kissing Tyler Buckspan The Waiting Tree

Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

Tyler Buckspan by Jere M. Fishback

The Waiting Tree by Lindsay Moynihan

Wandering Son: Volume Four When We Were Good Winger

Wandering Son v. 4 by Shimura Takako

When We Were Good by Suzanne Sutherland

Winger by Andrew Smith

Review: Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle

better nate than ever

Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle

Nate lives in Jankburg, Pennsylvania probably as far from Broadway that you can get.  But Broadway is where he dreams of being.  So when an opportunity to go to an open audition for E.T.: the Musical comes around, he and his best friend figure out how to get him to New York City without anyone knowing.  It involves taking an overnight bus from Pennsylvania, taking his mother’s ATM card, and fooling his older brother.  Then when he reaches New York City, he has to figure out how to get to the auditions all on his own.  There’s a lot that can go wrong in a plan like that, but Broadway and being a star is worth the risk! 

Federle has created a tremendously cheery book that is filled with humor and a wonderful light-heartedness.  Nate is a character that will speak to many kids who are interested in theater.  He describes himself as “undecided” about his sexuality which makes this a very friendly book for middle schoolers who are either questioning their own sexuality or gay.   Nate has a wonderful inner voice that he doesn’t allow to speak aloud.  His funniest moments are things that he says to himself about circumstances and other people. 

While the book remains consistently positive, Federle does also deal with deeper issues like bullying, being the kid at school who doesn’t fit in, alcoholism, and broken families.  All of these issues are dealt with seriously and yet at the same time aren’t allowed to make the book dark in any way. 

There is humor and hope everywhere in this book.  It is a delight of a middle school read.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Freakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark


Freakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark

On the surface, Brendan has it all together.  He has a hot girlfriend, he wrestles on the high school team, and he has a great younger sister who adores him.  It is under the surface that Brendan struggles, because he feels like a boy inside sometimes and other times like his entire body is wrong and that he is a girl.  As Brendan’s life spirals, he meets Angel, a transgendered teen who now lives as a girl.  The two bond over video game playing, carefully stepping around the larger issues for a long time.  But Brendan’s spiral turns darker and more destructive and having one understanding friend may not be enough to save him from himself and his despair.

Told entirely in verse, this book captures the world of a teen experiencing a different gender than the one he was born with.  The story is told in three voices:  Brendan, his girlfriend Vanessa, and Angel.  In this way, readers get to see not only Brendan’s personal story and evolution, but also the way that it impacts people he loves.  Angel serves as a vision of a possible future that is positive and yet complicated. 

Clark doesn’t shy away from anything in this book.  Sex and sexuality are discussed frankly and with beautiful details that add radiance and wonder.  She also does not make things easy.  Gender is shown in all of its complexity and as a full spectrum.  One brilliant character is Vanessa, a girl who is a high school wrestler but also one that is flirtatious and womanly.  Readers may not realize it at first, because Clark handles it gently, but Vanessa speaks to her own form of gender expression.

A powerful blazing novel that gives insight into teens struggling with gender variance and also offers a book where those teens can see themselves and a way forward.  Appropriate for ages 14-18.

Reviewed from copy received from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Review: Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

two boys kissing

Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

Released August 27, 2013.

Based on true events, this is the story of Henry and Craig, who attempt to set the World Record for kissing the longest.  That means they have to kiss for over 32 hours without a break, no pee breaks, no drink breaks, no sleep and no food.  They start it as a way to support their friend who had been attacked for being gay, but it quickly becomes so much more than that.  It is a kiss felt around the world.  It’s a kiss that speaks to other gay boys, boys who are in their own relationships, those just starting to meet one another, those born into the wrong bodies, those exploring the dark side of the Internet, and others who are just coming out.  The entire book is narrated by the voices of gay men who died in the AIDS epidemic, a generation of gay men who watch the violence, the continued anguish, but also the hope, the progress and the open joy of love.

This book is quite simply a masterpiece.  The pairing of the fresh young love of these gay teens against the wisdom of those who fault earlier battles is brilliant.  It places the entire book into a context that could otherwise be lost.  It is through those many narrators that the truth is laid bare in luminous poetic sentences like “He has no idea how beautiful he is as he walks up that path and rings that doorbell.  He has no idea how beautiful the ordinary becomes once it disappears.”  I highlighted so many sentences like that, bursts of beautiful insight scattered across the sky of the book.  Levithan is at his best here.

Levithan’s pairing of the modern with the perspective of those dead also makes sure that the book has a certain focus on death and dying.  He plays with both, contrasting it with the beauty of the every day, the wonder of perfect moments that are perfect only because they are momentary.  The book reads as one of those crystalline moments caught and tangible.  Levithan also offers gay characters who are in complicated relationships, adding to the depth of the narrative even further.  None of these teens are stereotypes, they are all deeply human, wonderfully so.

Beautifully written with strong characters and a brilliant concept, this book is breathtaking, just like a great kiss should be.  Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from e-galley courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers and Edelweiss.

Review: If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan


If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan

This debut novel from an Iranian-American author takes a look at what it is like to be a teen lesbian in Iran.  Sahar loves her friend Nasrin intensely.  They have been friends since childhood and Sahar has loved her since she was six.  They steal kisses when their parents are not around and long to be able to plan their lives together.  But in a country where women can be arrested and beaten for showing their elbows in public, their love is not allowed.  When Nasrin is betrothed to a young doctor, Sahar desperately looks for a solution that would allow them to be together.   She discovers that in Iran, you can have a sex change if you declare yourself to be transgendered and be considered fully the opposite sex.  So Sahar sets out to do just that, become a man so that she can marry Nasrin.  As Sahar’s plan develops, she has to make some serious choices, ones that will affect her for the rest of her life.

Farizan’s writing is clear and beautiful.  She adroitly shows the society of Iran, its treatment of women, the fear of the police, and the danger that the characters are living with.  The portrayal of their love is tender and exploratory, as it begins to crumble, one can see Sahar’s love for Nasrin remain even when their closeness begins to evaporate under the stress of the upcoming wedding and Sahar’s desperation to find a solution.

Throughout the book, there is a sense of longing, of yearning for freedom, for love, for one another.  It is a book filled with choices where nothing is right due to the society around them.  Yet through it all, Sahar shines.  She is a wonderful character who is strong, smart and unstoppable. 

This book depicts in life in Iran but also offers a diverse look at GLBTQ issues in the Middle East.  With a piercingly strong heroine, it is a powerful pick for public library collections.  Appropriate for ages 13-17.

Reviewed from ARC received from Algonquin Young Readers.