Books by Nancy Garden

Released: June 1, 2007

Garden, the author of the GLBT teen classic Annie On My Mind (1982), offers this chronological collection of essays and stories. There are two stories taking place in each decade from the 1950s to the 2000s. Each duo of stories is accompanied by an essay highlighting setbacks and strides forward within the GLBT community and in its quest for equal rights. The essays include specific names, cases and dates; unfortunately, however, there is no index. Some of the stories center on big political issues of the decade; in the '70s, Catholic teen Teresa feels she's crazy until she hears on the news that the APA has taken homosexuality off its list of mental disorders. Others focus on more personal issues; in the '80s, Josh and Frank lose an adult friend to AIDS. The stories are, in most instances, more vignettes than full-fledged narratives. The characters often lack background, and some of the scenarios are one note. Nonetheless, GLBT teens will find themselves in this important collection and likely come to appreciate the roots of their Pride all the more. (Fiction. YA)Read full book review >
ENDGAME by Nancy Garden
FAMILY AND GROWING UP
Released: April 1, 2006

Having gotten into trouble for reacting too violently to the bullies at his old school, Gray seriously hoped that things would be better in his new community. As he tells the tale to his lawyer, readers see that each thing in his life giving him confidence and support were gradually removed. Gray is excellent at archery, but Dad only seems to respect hunting with guns, and while Gray shows promise as a musician and drummer, that outlet slowly closes. Gray has friends, even a girlfriend for a while, but nothing lasts. Unable to confide in any adult or find any support in a system that idolizes jocks, Gray finally is pushed beyond his endurance. The viciousness of the bullies amps up as the story progresses, making clear how inevitable the explosion will become. While empathizing with Gray, the narrative also makes clear his culpability. Riveting. (Fiction. YA)Read full book review >
MOLLY’S FAMILY by Nancy Garden
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 7, 2004

In this long-overdue alternative to Lesléa Newman's groundbreaking, but one-dimensional Heather Has Two Mommies (1989), a kindergartener has a quiet crisis when a classmate confidently informs her that she can't have both a mommy and a Mama. But Molly does, and Tommy's comment not only requires some calming explanations at home from Molly's Mommy and Mama Lu, but sparks an eye-opening conversation about different family situations in class, too. Staid page design, plus generic figures portrayed in smudgy colors, with some awkwardly drawn hands and faces, will tell viewers from the outset that they're in for a theme-centered tale—still, Garden makes her points lightly enough to leave only a few bruises, and Molly regains her equanimity in time for the episode to end on an upbeat note. The real question is why are there still so few Mollys for child readers to encounter? (Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
MEETING MELANIE by Nancy Garden
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 25, 2002

Allie, almost 12, loves her life on Seal Head Island off the coast of Maine, but it promises to be a hard summer. Her lobsterman dad hurt his back, so the family sets up a pie shop, and sends Allie's younger siblings to the mainland and Aunt Eulalie. Allie is used to summer people and their often fancy ways, but this year, there's a new girl, Melanie, whose mother won't let her have any dealings with the working-class "natives." Melanie has spunk and fire and isn't about to let her mother have complete control, so the girls begin a bumpy relationship. Melanie's sister is pregnant, and their mother is trying to keep her hidden and away from the baby's father—deemed socially unacceptable. Several colorful local characters—a regular summer person who is also a nurse, and a painter, a strange, none-too-clean fellow who can barely speak—play a key role in the action, which plays itself out in fairly predictable fashion. Most of the populace are drawn in simple strokes, but Allie and the island itself are fully realized, rich characters. Questions of out-of-wedlock pregnancy, class distinctions, wealth, and poverty are touched upon, if not wrestled with, and there's just enough food for thought to keep things interesting. (Fiction. 10-13)Read full book review >
HOLLY’S SECRET by Nancy Garden
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 25, 2000

Garden (The Year They Burned the Books, 1999, etc.) again traverses scantly explored territory with this earnest tale of an adopted child who tries to cover up the fact that her two moms are gay. Upset after an episode of ostracism at summer camp, Holly decides to take advantage of a move to create a new persona for herself: "Yvette," sophisticated, non-athletic, fond of ruffles and boys, above all, with a normal family. Her hurt but loving parents agree to go along with the deception, at least when her new friends are around. But what with the domestic tension, the complicated web of lies she has to concoct, plus the self-inflicted pressure to fit in, to keep silent when she hears casually malicious references to dykes and fag hags, from the outset she doesn't much like what she's becoming. That web comes apart eventually, but after tears and confessions Holly discovers that her true friends are untroubled by her home arrangements. As the characters here tend to model appropriate or inappropriate behavior and to express or correct misinformation, Garden's agenda is never far from the surface. Still, while getting a good look at a close, stable, gay household, readers will understand the source of Holly's conflicting feelings, and feel her relief at the end. (Fiction. 10-12)Read full book review >
THE YEAR THEY BURNED THE BOOKS by Nancy Garden
Released: Sept. 22, 1999

Garden (Good Moon Rising, 1996, etc.) returns to territory she's staked out in previous novels for this drawn-out tale of gay teenagers caught in a small town conservative backlash. As Jamie watches her long-time friend Terry move into a relationship that is effectively pulling him out of the closet, she develops a powerful yen for straight-but-accepting newcomer Tessa. Meanwhile, backed by a shadowy national organization, community activist Lisa Buel gets herself elected to the school board and immediately launches a campaign against the new sex-ed curriculum, the availability of condoms at the high school, and the liberal stance of the school's paper, of which Jamie is editor-in-chief. The cast is composed of types, modeling behavior and expressing a range of attitudes; with frequent stops for newspaper editorials, prolonged conversations, and indignant speeches, the plot moves past various confrontations, a book-burning, hate mail, and a near- riot at school to an eventual uneasy peace. By the end, the gay teens have earned a measure of acceptance and Buel is handily defeated in a follow-up election, but the school newspaper is shut down for the year, and all health classes are turned—temporarily—into study halls. Garden makes a game if unsuccessful effort to create an evenhanded liberal/conservative dialogue, but the characters' mercurial love lives and their searches for identity will provide the book's chief draws. (Fiction. 13-15) Read full book review >
GOOD MOON RISING by Nancy Garden
FICTION
Released: Oct. 23, 1996

Following a successful stint in summer stock, Jan fully expects her drama teacher, Mrs. Nicholson, to give her the best part in the school play, The Crucible. After auditions, however, a new girl gets the role. Hurt though she is, Jan admits that Kerry is perfect for the part and reluctantly accepts the job of stage manager. Jan works closely with all the cast members, including the arrogant male lead, Kent. She also coaches Kerry, finding herself more and more attracted to her. The feeling is reciprocal, and it isn't long before Jan and Kerry are in love, a fact they attempt to keep secret. Kent, however, who harbors a dislike of Jan, launches a vicious campaign of rumor and innuendo, first among the cast and then throughout the school. Meanwhile, Mrs. Nicholson succumbs by degrees to cancer, leaving Jan to direct the play, which further infuriates Kent. What opened as a tender tale becomes a story of the outrages heaped on any teenager suspected of being different, although Kent's deep, almost pathological hatred, chalked up much later to homophobia, is never adequately explained in the early pages. This is not Annie on My Mind (1982) revisited, but it covers similar territory. (Fiction. 14+) Read full book review >
DOVE AND SWORD by Nancy Garden
BIOGRAPHY
Released: Oct. 24, 1995

In the winter of 1429 a young peasant girl from the French village of Domremy sets off to do the unthinkable: to lead an army that will wrest the throne from the Britisher who rules France and restore it to the French dauphin, Charles, in the process ending the bloody Hundred Years War. Jeanne d'Arc's story is told by Gabrielle, a girl learning the art of healing and midwifery. Gabrielle joins the Maid, as Jeanne is called, because her skills are desperately needed on the battlefield. Disguised as a lad, she observes Jeanne's successes and the ultimate treachery that result in her death at the stake for heresy. Not just another retelling of a familiar episode—in the hands of Garden (Lark in the Morning, 1991, etc.) the entire historical period comes brilliantly alive. The pert and plucky Gabrielle delivers readers into a peaceful village life and then vividly summons the carnage of war. In the process, she grows up too soon, just as the Maid dies too young. In a season of plenty for fine historical fiction, Garden's gripping, gritty tale ranks as one of the best. (Fiction. 12+) Read full book review >
LARK IN THE MORNING by Nancy Garden
FICTION
Released: May 10, 1991

A gay teenager hides two runaways while trying to help the more disturbed youngster find a reason to live. Even before she takes on Lark and her brother Jackie, Gillian Harrison is having trouble managing the fact that she's gay, hasn't told her close-knit family, and will soon be leaving her beloved Suzanne to go to Oregon State. But when she finds two kids camping out in an old hut and living by stealing food and blankets from summer cottages, she can't bring herself to report them: they've already been betrayed too often, especially by their own abusive father. Still, helping them poses risks: Lark, a mercurial, intense 15-year-old, plans to commit suicide as soon as Jackie is safely housed with their aunt. When Gillian leaves a note for her already-worried family—they have no idea why she has been so secretive and unlike herself—and drives the two to New Hampshire, she's terrified that she isn't doing what's best. Like Lisa and Annie in Garden's Annie on My Mind (1982), Suzanne and Gillian are likable girls trying to deal responsibly with their sexual preference. Here, their story is almost a backdrop to Lark and Jackie's tale—or would be, except that theirs isn't entirely in the foreground either. Nevertheless: an involving, smoothly written novel with believable characters and engrossing issues. (Fiction. 12-15) Read full book review >