Sunny St. James has just had a heart transplant and is ready to take three crucial steps into her New Life.
Step No. 1: Do “awesome amazing things” her cardiomyopathy kept her from doing. Step No. 2: “Find a new best friend” to replace Margot, who betrayed her trust. Step No. 3: “Find a boy” to kiss, “because kisses.” Sunny achieves the first two steps almost simultaneously: She goes swimming in the ocean for the first time since her diagnosis and she meets blue-haired Quinn Ríos Rivera, and the two agree to be best friends. The third proves to be difficult, because Sunny finds she doesn’t want to kiss a boy. She wants to kiss Quinn. Sunny’s struggles are numerous but well-balanced and never overwhelm readers. The 12-year-old’s mother, Lena, who gave Sunny to her best friend, Kate, to raise eight years ago, is ready to be part of Sunny’s life. Sunny isn’t sure she wants to know Lena, a recovering alcoholic. She’s also uncertain as to which feelings are hers and which ones belong to her unknown heart donor, but her thoughtful, present-tense voice as she parses these feelings is all hers. Quinn is Puerto Rican; Kate’s boyfriend is black; and Lena’s husband is South Asian. Assume whiteness for everyone else.
A sweet and gentle story of self-discovery and a beautiful addition to the growing genre of middle-grade realism featuring girls who like girls.
Tailor-made for LGBTQ–pride storytimes, this self-described “first book of pride” looks at the six-color rainbow flag and dissects the meaning behind each color. Genhart’s text is set primarily in single sentences across each double-page spread, with a longer summation on the final page. Fans of Todd Parr’s books will find the formatting (if not the colors) familiar. Like Parr’s work, the text is simple, with one or two multisyllabic words per page, which nicely allows for breakaway moments to “clap out” syllables or have a discussion about a reach word. Passchier’s illustrations—bright, serviceable, and most likely digital—capture a range of skin tones and ethnicities but, sadly, not a range of ages among adults depicted. LGBTQ grandparents, for instance, won’t find themselves, as all the characters appear as either children or young caregivers. The illustrations adequately enhance the text throughout, although the image for violet’s representation of “spirit” (a smiling child finger painting in a purple room) may have adult readers pausing to make the connection. A page of international pride further along in the book is lovely but aspirational, as some of the suggested nations (Egypt, for example) still struggle with LGBTQ acceptance compared to Western Europe and the United States.
A welcome addition to rainbow bookshelves and a potential workhorse in June.
(Picture book. 2-5)
A young trans girl solves a mystery and finds her people.
Zenobia July hasn’t had an easy go of it: Her mom died when she was little, and her religious, conservative dad has just died in what might be a hunting accident but was probably suicide. She’s shipped off to Portland, Maine, into the loving arms of her aunts Phil and Lu, an eccentric but competent hippie/academic lesbian couple. Zenobia makes friends with a gang of misfits fairly easily, but she still doesn’t want anyone to know that she’s trans (even after new friend Elijah is outed and her main confidant, Arli, genderqueer with vo/ven/veir pronouns, cringingly tries to convince Zenobia to be a better ally). Zenobia’s hacker skills come in handy when a mysterious troll posts transphobic and anti-Muslim memes to the school’s website, and her new friendships are put to various tests. Zenobia is an endearing white trans girl heroine, with an accessible amount of angst and anxiety that never tips over into titillating tragedy. Her community of weirdos and queers (including her aunts’ drag-queen friend Sprink) offers desperately needed representation. Hijab-wearing Congolese immigrant Dyna and Asian Elijah provide some racial diversity, though the default is white.
A fun read that manages to feel solidly traditional while breaking new ground (Fiction. 8-13)
A watershed picture book for a watershed moment—all in time for the Stonewall uprising’s 50th anniversary.
The historic Stonewall Inn, site of the eponymous uprising (and the book’s first-person-plural narrator), originated as two separate stable houses in 1840s Greenwich Village. By 1930, the buildings were joined to become Bonnie’s Stone Wall restaurant, “a place where being different was welcomed and accepted.” 1967 saw another change—to the Stonewall Inn (a tamely depicted bar and dance club). Subsequent years saw multiple police raids targeting the establishment’s LGBTQIAP patrons. On June 28, 1969, the people finally fought back, galvanizing the LGBTQIAP rights movement. As the text carries readers from past to present, its unusual narrative perspective gives a strong sense of place and community. Sanders attempts to balance the received historical narrative with inclusivity, but his retrospective tone bears slight hints of erasure when, for example, “gay men and women” is used as a catchall phrase. Moreover, though the backmatter makes mention of the key roles of trans women of color in the uprising, the visuals instead position a white-presenting woman as a key instigator. Christoph’s digitally rendered illustrations paint a vivid, diverse portrait of both setting and community. The book concludes with photographs and an interview with Martin Boyce, a participant in the uprising.
A beautiful—if a bit cis-centric—tribute.
(Informational picture book. 5-9)
It’s unusual for board books to include backmatter, but this one does, and it provides context for the prior spreads’ loving verse and colorful photographs, arranged in the familiar six-color Pride flag sequence. “Everyone is welcome at Pride! The rainbow flag is a colorful symbol of LGBTQ Pride,” reads this text, which unfortunately fails to credit Gilbert Baker with creating the flag. It also doesn’t acknowledge efforts to include more colors and designs to mark efforts to make the LGBTQ+ movement more inclusive in terms of racial and gender diversity. But, here’s what this board book does very, very well: It sends a message of unconditional love to the implied child audience, and it affirms familial and racial diversity. Each color has two spreads. The first introduces the hue with a line of text and is accompanied by a stock photo of a child that somehow highlights that color. The second spread in each pair then shifts to directly address both the depicted child and child readers. For example, “YELLOW SUNSHINE, smiles so bright” introduces yellow with a grinning, light-skinned child wearing a yellow jacket. The next spread reads, “I’ll hug you, kiss you, hold you tight,” and shows a baby snuggled by people who read as two moms.
A joyful, affirming, pride-filled read.
(Board book. 6 mos.-4)