Introducing Teddy by Jessica Walton

Introducing Teddy by Jessica Walton

Introducing Teddy by Jessica Walton, illustrated by Dougal MacPherson

Starting as a Kickstarter project, this picture book features Thomas the teddy and Errol who are best friends. They do everything together, riding bikes, playing in the garden, and eating in the tree house. But one day, Thomas doesn’t feel like playing. Even a visit to the park won’t cheer him up. When Errol asks what is wrong, Teddy says that he is worried that if he tells Errol that Errol won’t want to be his friend any more. After Errol reassures him, Teddy admits that he has always felt in his heart that he is a girl teddy, not a boy teddy. When the two meet Ava, she demonstrates that girls can be anything they want, including inventing robots and wearing their hair without a bow. It’s a gentle look at gender identity.

This is Walton’s first picture book and it is inspired by her father’s transition from male to female. In the picture book, she makes sure to keep everything at a level that small children can understand. It’s a book that speaks to gender and will also work for children who may not be transgender but feel that they don’t fit into the limits that society puts them into. It’s a book that celebrates being who you are and not being afraid to tell others what is in your heart.

MacPherson’s illustrations have a whimsical quality to them, filled with a zingy energy. The use of a bow to demonstrate gender works very nicely and subtly. The introduction of a girl character who is a lovely mix of long hair and skirts and then science and freedom makes for an excellent counterpoint to the bow and bow tie.

A strong addition to picture book about gender identity, this is a gentle way to speak about the issue with children. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from ARC received from Bloomsbury.



Saving Montgomery Sole by Mariko Tamaki

Saving Montgomery Sole by Mariko Tamaki

Saving Montgomery Sole by Mariko Tamaki (InfoSoup)

Montgomery has two best friends who are the reason that she can make it through high school at all. They have a Mystery Club at school where they are the only members and they explore the mysteries of the universe. Thomas loves to talk about superheroes and Naoki focuses on crystals. With Monty’s two moms and Thomas being bullied for being gay, Monty knows there is hate in the world, something made even clearer when a preacher arrives in town putting up signs against people who are gay. When Monty buys The Eye of Know online, she doesn’t expect it to work any better than their other experiments, but soon the Eye seems to be channeling Monty’s personal anger and exacting revenge.

Tamaki captures the anger of a teenager with precision here. It all feels deeply organic, often not being logical at all, lashing out at those she loves, and withdrawing into her room. The issues that Monty is furious about are so tangible both in her life and in her friendships, yet she goes much farther than those who love her would want her to. There is a sense of her reaching a cliff of anger and having to make a choice of how she is going to be in the world. It’s a powerful place to set a YA novel and works well.

The magical realism in the book is done well too. It strikes a balance between being entirely believable but also allowing readers to see it as something that could be unrelated too. Readers will get to see what their own opinions of mysteries of the universe are in this well-written novel.

A novel about anger and its positive and negative sides, this book will speak to young teens navigating their own issues. Appropriate for ages 12-14.

Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.




The Family Fletcher Takes Rock Island by Dana Alison Levy

The Family Fletcher Takes Rock Island by Dana Alison Levy

The Family Fletcher Takes Rock Island by Dana Alison Levy

This is the second book in the Family Fletcher series and once again it is a treat to spend time with this dynamic family. This time they head to Rock Island, a place where Papa has been coming since he was a child. Rock Island is a small place where things are always the same. There is the same lighthouse, the same flavors of ice cream, and the same tiny house where all of the boys share a loft filled with beds. This year though, some things have changed. There is a fence around the lighthouse, so no one can visit it. A new family has moved in next door too, though they seem to be very annoying. The brothers themselves are also changing and heading in different directions for the first time on the island. Though one thing unites them all, the question of what is really happening to their beloved lighthouse.

Levy has once again written such a readable book. The Fletcher family is made up of gay parents and four adopted siblings of different races. Yet this series is not about growing up in a diverse and gay family, rather it is about a merry and very human family that is a joy to spend time with. The brothers all treat one another like siblings, meaning they fight, they apologize, they inadvertently hurt one another’s feelings. This series is about a real family, one that comes to life on the page.

Levy does deal very sensitively about race in this book. The scene is handled beautifully where at first readers will not realize what is going on, so their own understanding progresses at the same rate as the young characters who soon realize they are dealing with a bigoted bully. The issue is not minimized, but the family comes together to support their brother as he discovers the harshness of direct racism for the first time.

Smart and very funny, this novel for young people adds a winning second book to a series I hope continues for some time. Appropriate for ages 8-11.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Delacorte and Edelweiss.


Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley

Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley

Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley

Solomon hasn’t left the house in three years. Not since he had a panic attack at school and ended up in his boxers in the school fountain. Now at age 16, Solomon has decided that he really doesn’t need the outside world at all, not missing his old friends and doing his school work online. Lisa is ambitious, knowing that she wants to leave her home town far behind. Her dream is to become a psychiatrist and Solomon is her key to the essay that will earn her a full-ride scholarship to the second-best school in the country. Lisa steadily befriends Solomon, not sharing with him that she is using him as a test subject. As true friendship starts to grow with not just Lisa but also her boyfriend Clark, Solomon starts to improve. But can a friendship built on one lie survive the truth?

Pritz-Award winner Whaley has once again created characters that are beautifully crafted and intensely human. While it is easy to sympathize with Solomon, Lisa is one of the more conflicted and complex characters I’ve read in a long time. She is exceedingly easy to dislike, since readers understand her selfish motivations very clearly. Yet as the novel progresses, readers will slowly realize that they understand Lisa and may even like her. Her character brings up difficult questions about motivations and what it means to help someone else.

Solomon too is an impressive character. Whaley allows us to see Solomon beyond his agoraphobia and to see into the world of a boy who has chosen to shut everyone out. At the same time without doing information dumps, Whaley gives readers insights into this mental illness and the devastation of panic and anxiety. He gives readers the experience of wondering at times if Solomon is actually just fine and then sending Solomon into darkness once again. It is a powerful and truthful look at battling a mental illness.

This teen novel is complicated and incredibly vibrant. It looks at so much of what it takes to be a teenager in the modern world and asks whether it is the place for any teen to live. Appropriate for ages 14-18.

Reviewed from ARC received from Dial Books.

2016 Lambda Literary Award Finalists

Lambda Literary Logo

The finalists for the 2016 Lambda Literary Awards were announced in March. Here are the finalists for the LGBT Children’s/Young Adult category.

About a Girl (Metamorphoses, #3) Anything Could Happen

About a Girl by Sarah McCarry

Anything Could Happen by Will Walton

25246418 George

Gay and Lesbian History of Kids: The Century-Long Struggle for LGBT Rights by Jerome Pohlen

George by Alex Gino

The Marvels More Happy Than Not

The Marvels by Brian Selznick

More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

None of the Above Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

None of the Above by IW Gregorio

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli




The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle

The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle

The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle (InfoSoup)

Quinn has always dreamed of being a Hollywood screenwriter and creating films with his sister Annabeth directing. Then Annabeth died. Now Quinn spends a lot of time in his room alone, not looking for the phone that has Annabeth’s final text to him on it sent right before she ran a red light. As summer starts, Quinn longs for air conditioning and his best friend Geoff shows up with a solution. It means that Quinn has to finally leave the house. It also means heading to his first college party where Quinn meets a very hot guy. As Quinn works to see his life playing out as a screenplay, life as other ideas.

Wow. Federle has a gift with voice. He has created in Quinn a gay teen boy who does not fit into any stereotype at all. Quinn is very smart, very sarcastic and amazingly self-centered. He could have been completely unlikable, but Federle has also made Quinn one of the most stunningly human protagonists of all time. Riddled with grief and unable to voice or even think about his loss, he hides from everyone but most particularly himself.

This is a profound look at grief, but it is also a book about being a gay teenager. It’s a book that thinks deeply about coming out to friends and family, finding out other people’s secrets, exploring new love. It’s a book where there is sex, gay teenage boy sex, and it is wonderfully awkward and normal.

Thank you to Federle for creating a gay protagonist where the book is not driven by the angst of being gay, but where sexual orientation is also not ever ignored as the important piece of life that it is. Beautifully done. Appropriate for ages 15-18.

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

On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis

On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis

On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis (InfoSoup)

The author of Otherbound returns with a stunning science fiction novel for teens. Denise and her mother are ready to leave their apartment, but her mother won’t move fast enough. She is trying to wait for Denise’s sister, Iris. Now they are not going to reach the shelter in time and that means that they probably won’t survive the comet hitting Earth. As they drive the empty streets to their temporary shelter, desperately late, a chance encounter leads them on another path. Instead of a temporary shelter, they are offered shelter in a generation ship that will wait out the comet hit and then leave earth. Now it is up to Denise to figure out how to fix everything, to find her sister in destroyed and flooded Amsterdam, and even more importantly get them all a spot on the generation ship before it takes off. But who is going to take Denise who is autistic and her mother who struggles with drug addiction?

Duyvis set this book in her native Amsterdam and throughout the novel, one can see her love for her nation and her city. Yes, she destroys much of it, but the spirit of the people is clear on the page as is the beauty of the city even through its destruction. The science here is done just right, with a clear connection to today’s technology but also taking it leaps ahead, allowing readers to truly believe it is 2035. This book is not afraid of asking difficult questions about disabilities and addiction and whether only the perfect deserve to survive in this situation.

The book is beautifully written, with an impressive protagonist who shows that disabilities are no reason that you can’t be a survivor and even more so, a heroine. Denise is a beautiful mixture of autistic behaviors when she is pushed but also bravery and resilience. The book is an intelligent mix of adventure and survival with a compelling question of what could make Denise worthy enough to stay. There are additional ethical questions throughout, including how far one would go to save a loved one.

A brilliant science fiction novel that offers diversity and a powerful story. Appropriate for ages 12-15.

Reviewed from ARC received from Abrams.