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From The Guide: We Need Middle-Grade LGBTQ+ Books

Publishers take note. According to Madeline Tyner’s article “The CCBC’s Diversity Statistics: Spotlight on LGBTQ+ Stories”: “We received very little LGBTQ+ fiction for middle-grade readers [in 2017]…The lack of this literature is unfortunate, as children in upper elementary and middle school are often beginning to question their sexual orientations or gender identities.” The following books, recommended in the last few years by The Horn Book Guide, are a start — and see also the Magazine-recommended titles listed in the sidebar — but there remains an undeniable dearth of books about this topic for the age range.

—Cynthia K. Ritter
Associate Editor, The Horn Book Guide

Cassidy, Sara  A Boy Named Queen
79 pp.     Groundwood     2016     ISBN 978-1-55498-905-8
ebook ISBN 978-1-55498-906-5

Quiet and reserved, fifth grader Evelyn is the product of a strict and structured home life. Newcomer Queen, on the other hand, revels in his “uniqueness” and remains unfazed by the bullying his name inspires. While the friendship that develops between these two can only be expected, it is Evelyn’s emerging acceptance of her own creativity that brings the novella to a satisfying conclusion.

Dee, Barbara  Star-Crossed
279 pp.     Simon/Aladdin     2017     ISBN 978-1-4814-7848-9
ebook ISBN 978-1-4814-7850-2

Eighth-grade theater girl Mattie finds herself playing Romeo opposite Gemma, her first crush. Mattie struggles with her feelings: Does liking this one girl make her a lesbian? What happens if her classmates find out? The ending leaves Gemma’s feelings toward Mattie fuzzy. It’s refreshing to see a same-sex relationship featured in a light middle-school romp with clever (if not very deep) parallels to Romeo and Juliet.

Dooley, Sarah  Ashes to Asheville
233 pp.     Putnam     2017     ISBN 978-0-399-16504-7

After one of their two mothers dies, sisters Fella (twelve) and Zany (sixteen) sneak off from Fella’s grandmother’s West Virginia house to scatter Mama Lacy’s ashes in their hometown of Asheville. This 2004-set road trip novel is full of mishaps and funny sisterly arguments; it also sheds light on logistical and emotional complications prior to legal same-sex marriage.

Gephart, Donna  Lily and Dunkin
341 pp.     Delacorte     2016      ISBN 978-0-553-53674-4
LE ISBN 978-0-553-53675-1
ebook ISBN 978-0-553-53676-8

Eighth graders Lily Jo and Dunkin both dislike their birth names (Timothy and Norbert, respectively) and struggle with the ways they feel their bodies betray them: for trans Lily because others assume she is a boy, and for bipolar Dunkin because he needs mood stabilizing and antipsychotic medication. While their tentative friendship is repeatedly tried by bullies, Gephart delivers an optimistic novel full of hope and heart.

Hitchcock, Shannon  One True Way
217 pp.     Scholastic     2018     ISBN 978-1-338-18172-2
ebook ISBN 978-1-338-18173-9

In 1977 North Carolina, two middle-school girls fall in love. Allie is mourning her brother’s death and her parents’ divorce; Sam struggles with her parents’ conservative Christian values. Through Allie’s narration, Hitchcock shows the pain that arises when loving someone means you aren’t accepted by your family and your community. The moving story contains wise, empathetic characters as well as many funny moments.

Keenan-Bolger, Andrew and Wetherhead, Kate  Jack & Louisa: Act 3
255 pp.     Grosset     2017     ISBN 978-0-448-47841-8

This third installment picks up at the end of summer theater camp. Back at school, Jack directs and Louisa stars in an all-student version of The Fantasticks for a musical theater competition. There’s drama onstage and off as the duo grapples with first crushes, each on a different boy. The fast-paced narration features many musical theater references, both familiar and deliciously obscure.

 

More from The Horn Book Magazine:

Alan Cole Is Not a Coward (HarperCollins/Tegen, 2017) by Eric Bell (rev. 11/17)

Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World (Little, Brown 2018) by Ashley Herring Blake (rev. 5/18)

Hurricane Child (Scholastic, 2018) by Kheryn Callender (rev. 5/18)

The Pants Project (Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky, 2017) by Cat Clarke (rev. 5/17)

George (Scholastic, 2015) by Alex Gino (rev. 9/15)

One Half from the East (HarperCollins/Harper, 2016) by Nadia Hashimi (rev. 11/16)

This Would Make a Good Story Someday (Delacorte, 2017) by Dana Alison Levy (rev. 5/17)

The Best Man (Dial, 2016) by Richard Peck (rev. 7/16)

All Three Stooges (Knopf, 2018) by Erica S. Perl (rev. 3/18)

Saturdays with Hitchcock (Charlesbridge, 2017) by Ellen Wittlinger (rev. 7/17)

See also: “Looking for Queer Girls on the Shelves” by E. M. Kokie

From the November/December 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine. Reviews are from recent or forthcoming issues of The Horn Book Guide. For more information about subscribing to the Guide and The Horn Book Guide Online, please visit hbook.com/subscriber-info/.

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