Friday, August 23, 2019

Julián is a Mermaid - A Gorgeous Picture Book I Wish Had Been Read To Me When I Was a Little Kid



Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love

While riding the subway home from the pool with his abuela one day, Julián notices three women spectacularly dressed up. Their hair billows in brilliant hues, their dresses end in fishtails, and their joy fills the train car. When Julián gets home, daydreaming of the magic he’s seen, all he can think about is dressing up just like the ladies in his own fabulous mermaid costume: a butter-yellow curtain for his tail, the fronds of a potted fern for his headdress. But what will Abuela think about the mess he makes — and even more importantly, what will she think about how Julián sees himself?

What's so great is that this is not about gender. It's about love. And acceptance.

The illustrations are perfect.

A moment of wonder when Julián sees the women dressed up as mermaids


Abuela's reaction is perfect.

Julián's childhood innocence, love of mermaids, fantasy of being a mermaid, and steps taken to be a mermaid for the afternoon are so sweet and perfectly conveyed.

The sense of celebration.

Of community.

Of family.

Of love.

This is a beautiful picturebook about being yourself, and loving children who are themselves--uniquely, wonderfully themselves--when they're a little kid, and when they're a mermaid. Always. No exceptions. No gender boundaries required.

I love this picturebook, and absolutely wish it had been read to me when I was a little kid. Cheers to Jessica!

Winner of a 2019 Stonewall Book Award, add your review of "Julián is a Mermaid" in comments!

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens - In this "Judy Blume meets RuPaul's Drag Race" teen novel, Nima Discovers the Magic of Drag and of Being (And Loving) Your Truest Self


Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens by Tanya Boteju

Perpetually awkward Nima Kumara-Clark is bored with her insular community of Bridgeton, in love with her straight girlfriend, and trying to move past her mother’s unexpected departure. After a bewildering encounter at a local festival, Nima finds herself suddenly immersed in the drag scene on the other side of town.

Macho drag kings, magical queens, new love interests, and surprising allies propel Nima both painfully and hilariously closer to a self she never knew she could be—one that can confidently express and accept love. But she’ll have to learn to accept lost love to get there.

Add your review of "Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens" in comments!

Monday, August 19, 2019

Jack (Not Jackie) - A Picture Book About a Trans Child and the Family Who Accepts Them That I Wish Had Been Read To Me When I Was a Little Kid



Jack (Not Jackie) by Erica Silverman, Illustrated by Holly Hatam

Susan thinks her little sister Jackie has the best giggle! She can't wait for Jackie to get older so they can do all sorts of things like play forest fairies and be explorers together. But as Jackie grows, she doesn't want to play those games. She wants to play with mud and be a super bug! Jackie also doesn't like dresses or her long hair, and she would rather be called Jack.

The heart of this story are these pivot moments, where Jack starts to assert their identity and his big sister and parents notice.

There's the playground scene, where the little boy calls the main character "Jack" for the first time.

There's the shopping-for-clothes scene, where their mother says, "We wear what feels right."

There's the haircut scene, where the big sister reacts as Jack asks for more and more of their hair to be cut:

"Stop, Mama, stop!" I shout. "Now Jackie looks like a boy."

Jackie says, "I am a boy!"

Mama is quiet. Finally she says, "Well, Jackie's been trying to tell us that for a long time."

And, maybe most moving of all, the scene where the big sister draws two pictures: One of Jackie, and the other of Jack. She stares at the portraits she created.

"Jackie. Jack. The same big, round eyes. My sister. My brother. It's okay, either way. And little by little, my heart starts to feel bubbly again."


Booklist is right. Jack (Not Jackie) "belongs in every library."

Cheers to the author, illustrator, and the partnership between GLAAD and Bonnier Publishing USA that donates a portion of the book's sales "to accelerate LGBTQ acceptance."

Add your review of "Jack (Not Jackie)" in comments!

Friday, August 16, 2019

Bloom - A Graphic Novel About Young Gay Love, and Baking, and Hard Choices, and Growing Up



Bloom by Kevin Panetta, illustrated by Savanna Ganucheau

Now that high school is over, Ari is dying to move to the big city with his ultra-hip band—if he can just persuade his dad to let him quit his job at their struggling family bakery. Though he loved working there as a kid, Ari cannot fathom a life wasting away over rising dough and hot ovens. But while interviewing candidates for his replacement, Ari meets Hector, an easygoing guy who loves baking as much as Ari wants to escape it. As they become closer over batches of bread, love is ready to bloom . . . that is, if Ari doesn’t ruin everything.

Thanks to Arthur Levine for the heads-up on this one. Add your review of "Bloom" in comments!

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Top Ten - A Bi Teen Girl and Her Guy Best Friend Count Down The Top Ten Moments of Their Friendship (Maybe More Than Friendship?) On The Night of Their High School Graduation



Top Ten by Katie Cotugno

Ryan McCullough and Gabby Hart are the unlikeliest of best friends. Prickly, anxious Gabby would rather do literally anything than go to a party. Ultra-popular Ryan is a hockey star who can get any girl he wants–and frequently does. But somehow their relationship just works; from dorky Monopoly nights to rowdy house parties to the top ten lists they make about everything under the sun.

Now, on the night of high school graduation, everything is suddenly changing—in their lives, and in their relationship. As they try to figure out what they mean to each other and where to go from here, they make a final top ten list: this time, counting down the top ten moments of their friendship.

What's Queer about it? Gabby is bi, and has an ex-girlfriend, Shay.



Add your review of "Top Ten" in comments!

Monday, August 12, 2019

Queer Kid Lit Inspiration from #LA19SCBWI


I love the SCBWI Summer Conference, and while I wasn't able to attend the whole event this year (a day-job conflict that I will make every effort to avoid happening again!) I did have some amazing moments.

The two that resonate the most strongly were from the same session, the LGBTQ and Allies Social I hosted on Friday night.

In the course of the discussion, I shared that one of my challenges as a creator of work for children and teens that includes LGBTQ characters and themes are the voices that tell me to make things less gay. Part of that I'm sure is internalized homophobia from my childhood. But part is external, the voices of well-meaning folks who want to see me succeed and think the way to do that is to have my work be not quite so... well, Queer. To pull back. To not stand out so much. And I hear it. Quite a bit.

I shared with the group that what I really need is a community of people who tell me the opposite. That my dream is to have a creative community that tells me, "Make it Gayer, Lee!" A creative community that urges me to take risks. To tell the stories I so deeply need to tell, and to push myself to make them as Queer as possible.

Bruce Coville was there, and in a conversation about defining success, we discussed his including a positive gay role model in The Skull of Truth. Which, I said, was really brave of him as it was such a breakthrough (it was published in 1997.)

And Bruce said, "I wasn't brave, I was cranky." He wasn't seeing positive representations of gay people in middle grade books. And so he decided to do something about it himself. He told us about losing a few school visits over it, but ultimately, "Saying what you want to say is way more important." Bruce said that sometimes, success can be defined in terms of "What barrier can I push?"

And then, at the end of the evening's session, illustrator Mara Williams showed me what she'd been working on in her sketchbook:



Thank you, Mara. And thank you, Bruce!

I'll get back to work pushing those barriers. And I'll make it gayer.

The light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in you,
Lee


Friday, August 9, 2019

It's #LA19SCBWI - The 2019 SCBWI Summer Conference!

Starting today, it's one of my favorite times of the year - The SCBWI Summer Conference here in Los Angeles, California!



I'm only going to be able to attend today, due to a work conflict for my IBPA job (I'll be flying to another conference Saturday) so while I won't be part of SCBWI Team Blog this time round, I'm going to enjoy my one full day here!

Three highlights:

The opening keynote by M.T. Anderson! He's brilliant, and it was his editing notes on my 8th revision of Queer as a Five-Dollar Billduring a week-long Highlights Foundation workshop, that took my debut novel up to a whole new level.

The Author Panel, "Creating Books That Matter" with Adib Khorram, Lesléa Newman, Elizabeth Partridge, Lilliam Rivera, and Renée Watson, moderated by Linda Sue Park! Lesléa is a legend and pioneer of LGBTQ inclusion in picture books (her "Heather Has Two Mommies" changed so much) and she interviewed me as a bonus track at the end of the Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill audiobook - it was such a fan-boy moment for me!

The Tribe-Within-a-Tribe "LGBTQAI Social" I'm hosting tonight (Friday August 9, 2019 from 7:30pm-9pm in Platinum C) - we gather, we share, we ask questions, we support, and we know we're not alone in wanting to make sure at LGBTQ lives and loves are represented in Children's Literature and Illustration!

There's so much more - the morning and afternoon breakout sessions, the other keynotes, the portfolio showcase - but the thing I'm most excited about is the people. The community. My other—and overlapping—community of people just as passionate about creating wonderful content for children and tweens and teens as I am.

I can't wait!

If you'll be there and you see me, please say hi!

The light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in you,
Lee

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

"Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill" Gets a Wonderful Editorial Review in Publishers Weekly!

This review is awesome:



Highlights:

“a smart coming-of-age story... a timely discussion about challenging long-held myths about history… profound and honest.” —Publishers Weekly (BookLife)
Read the full review here.

Getting such a positive editorial review for my debut novel from Publishers Weekly is a wonderful moment. So happy to share it with you.

The light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in you,
Lee

Monday, August 5, 2019

2.7 million page loads... and counting!

It's fun to mark these milestones (hundred thousand stones?) with you all!



This blog just blew by 2.7 million page loads (it's at 2,714,043 as I write this.)

Thank you for being my community (from over 100 countries all over the world!), and for finding value in what I'm sharing. I do it from the heart, and to know it resonates means so much.

The light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in you,
Lee

P.S. - if you're not yet signed up for my occasional newsletters, you can do so at the top left of this blog. Thanks!

Friday, August 2, 2019

The Pros of Cons - Three Teen Girls (A Fanfic Writer, a Drummer, and an Amateur Taxidermist) Meet at a Convention Center...



The Pros of Cons By Alison Cherry, Lindsay Ribar, Michelle Schusterman

Drummer Phoebe Byrd prides herself on being one of the guys, and she's ready to prove it by kicking all their butts in the snare solo competition at the Indoor Percussion Association Convention.

Writer Vanessa Montoya-O'Callaghan has been looking forward to the WTFcon for months. Not just because of the panels and fanfiction readings but because WTFcon is where she'll finally meet Soleil, her internet girlfriend, for the first time.

Taxidermy assistant Callie Buchannan might be good at scooping brains out of deer skulls, but that doesn't mean it's her passion. Since her parents' divorce, her taxidermist father only cares about his work, and assisting him at the World Taxidermy and Fish-Carving Championships is the only way Callie knows to connect with him.

When a crazy mix-up in the hotel lobby brings the three girls together, they form an unlikely friendship against a chaotic background of cosplay, competition, and carcasses!

Add your review of "The Pros of Cons" in comments!

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Echo After Echo - Two Teen Girls Are Caught Up in a Murder Mystery (and Their Own Love Story)



Echo After Echo by Amy Rose Capetta

Zara Evans has come to the Aurelia Theater, home to the visionary director Leopold Henneman, to play her dream role in Echo and Ariston, the Greek tragedy that taught her everything she knows about love. When the director asks Zara to promise that she will have no outside commitments, no distractions, it’s easy to say yes. But it’s hard not to be distracted when there’s a death at the theater — and then another — especially when Zara doesn’t know if they’re accidents, or murder, or a curse that always comes in threes. It’s hard not to be distracted when assistant lighting director Eli Vasquez, a girl made of tattoos and abrupt laughs and every form of light, looks at Zara. It’s hard not to fall in love.

Add your review of "Echo After Echo" in comments!

Monday, July 29, 2019

Crowdsourcing Amazing LGBTQ History - The Baburnama, Kuan Yin, and...? #QueerHistoryIsEverywhere

As I speak about LGBTQ history, and how it didn't all start with Stonewall, I've had this amazing thing happen again and again.

I'll be talking about how the facade of history, as it is taught in our culture, would have us believe that everyone important in history was a rich, white, able-bodied, cis-gendered, hetero man from Europe—and that's just not true.

How there were poor people, and people of color, and disabled people, and gender non-conforming people, and Queer people from all over the world and as far back as we can go in history, who changed our world!

How every example we find of men who loved men, and women who loved women, and people who lived outside gender boundaries cracks that false facade and lets some rainbow light through.

And afterwards, while signing my Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill novel for them, or in an excited conversation, or in an email, they'll tell me about a piece of hidden LGBTQ history that they know.

Have I heard about Babur, the Prince and Emperor, who wrote in his autobiography (the first autobiography ever in Islamic literature) about his teenage love for another boy?


I hadn't, and I got the Baburnama from the library - it's amazing and true and romantic... and that story is going to be in my upcoming book, coming out from Zest/Lerner publishing, The Queer History Project: No Way, They Were Gay? LGBTQ People Across Time and Around Our World.

Have I heard about Kuan Yin, the Chinese bodhisattva (someone who delays their own ascension to be a Buddah to work to relieve the suffering of others), who is a Trans icon?


I hadn't, but I'm reading up on them now!

In short, I'm collecting these stories - about people, and cultures, and legends - and I'd love to hear from you. Whether you think I've heard of them or not, please reach out and tell me about the LGBTQAI+ history you know. About the men who loved men, women who loved women, people who lived outside gender boundaries, cultures that saw—and see—gender differently than we do today, and myths and legends and gods and goddesses that are part of our Queer heritage.

So let me know - in comments, via email, or on social media - and if you have a source to share, that's even better! I'll share it all, and if it ends up in a book, I will of course thank you!

You can also use the hashtag #QueerHistoryIsEverywhere
Because it is.

And together, we can tear down that wall - that false facade of history - and let all the amazing rainbow light of history shine through!

The light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in you,
Lee

Friday, July 26, 2019

Social Intercourse - A Gay Teen and a Jock With Two Moms (Who Are Now Separated) Plot to Break Up Their Parents' New Romance



Social Intercourse by Greg Howard

Beck: The Golden Girls-loving, out-and-proud choir nerd growing up in the “ass-crack of the Bible belt.”

Jax: The Golden Boy, star quarterback with a slick veneer facing uncomfortable truths about himself and his past.

When Beck’s emotionally fragile dad starts dating the recently single (and supposedly lesbian) mom of former bully, Jaxon Parker, Beck is not having it. Jax isn’t happy about the situation either, holding out hope that his moms will reunite and restore the only stable home he’s ever known. Putting aside past differences, the boys plot to derail the budding romance between their parents at their conservative hometown’s first-ever Rainbow Prom. Hearts will be broken, new romance will bloom, but nothing will go down the way Beck and Jax have planned.

Add your review of "Social Intercourse" in comments!

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Love and Other Carnivorous Plants - Freshman Year at Harvard, Bulimia, and a Crush on Another Girl



Love and Other Carnivorous Plants by Florence Gonsalves

Freshman year at Harvard was the most anticlimactic year of Danny's life. She's failing pre-med and drifting apart from her best friend. One by one, Danny is losing all the underpinnings of her identity. When she finds herself attracted to an older, edgy girl who she met in rehab for an eating disorder, she finally feels like she might be finding a new sense of self. But when tragedy strikes, her self-destructive tendencies come back to haunt her as she struggles to discover who that self really is.

Here's a piece where the author talks about writing this book.


Add your review of "Love and Other Carnivorous Plants" in comments!

Monday, July 22, 2019

Dactyl Hill Squad - Dinosaurs and Race in a reimagined 1863 New York (with a Trans Hero!)



Dactyl Hill Squad by Daniel José Older

It's 1863 and dinosaurs roam the streets of New York as the Civil War rages between raptor-mounted armies down South. Magdalys Roca and her friends from the Colored Orphan Asylum are on a field trip when the Draft Riots break out, and a number of their fellow orphans are kidnapped by an evil magistrate, Richard Riker.

Magdalys and her friends flee to Brooklyn and settle in the Dactyl Hill neighborhood, where black and brown New Yorkers have set up an independent community--a safe haven from the threats of Manhattan. Together with the Vigilance Committee, they train to fly on dactylback, discover new friends and amazing dinosaurs, and plot to take down Riker. Can Magdalys and the squad rescue the rest of their friends before it's too late?

What's Queer about it? One of the heroes of this story is the pirate Redd, a trans man.

This Middle Grade title has won a LOT of praise, including being named A New York Times Notable Book, An NPR Best Book of the Year, A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, A New York Public Library Best Book of the Year, A Washington Post Best Book of the Year, and A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year. 

Add your review of "Dactyl Hill Squad" in comments!