“So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war,” said Abraham Lincoln when he met Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Those words came back to me in the early 1990’s when I watched a newscast showing Mary Cummins, President of School Board District 24 of Queens NY saying, “This is a war and it will be fought….” Cummins was talking about the Rainbow Curriculum, a resource compiled for New York City school teachers that suggested titles to make classrooms more inclusive and diverse. Cummins objected to three books included in the curriculum that feature families with same-sex parents including my own book, Heather Has Two Mommies. Chaos ensued with protests, demonstrations, and heated school meetings that came close to violence. Headlines such as “How a ‘Rainbow Curriculum’ Turned into Fighting Words” (from the New York Times) and “City writer’s book involved in national gay-rights battle” (from the Daily Hampshire Gazette, my hometown newspaper), gave me pause. Fighting words? Battle? Had I also written a book that started a great war?
That certainly was not my intention.
I wrote Heather Has Two Mommies in 1988 at the request of a lesbian mother who stopped me on the street one day and said, “We have no books to read to our daughter that show a family like ours. Somebody should write one.” I knew exactly how this little girl felt. Growing up in the 1950’s, I had no books that showed a family like mine: a Jewish family celebrating Chanukah and Passover and eating matzo ball soup and challah on Friday nights. After reading book after book about families that decorated Christmas trees and hunted for Easter eggs, I wondered why my family didn’t do those things. Why was my family so different? What was wrong with my family?
The amount of books that have transgender characters is alarmingly low. As a result, in the wake of recent events, we’ve decided to put together a short list of books about transgender characters for all ages. You can find these books on our shelves at our 112th street location. For more lists like this one, you can check out the We Need Diverse Books campaign, or Diversity in YA, which are both wonderful resources for either searching for more diverse characters or learning about diversity in the publishing sphere. Are we missing your favorite? If you have any additional books you’d like to add to our list or to our shelves feel free to let us know!
1. Gracefully Grayson, Amy Polonsky
Middle Grade (ages 9-11)
Released November of 2014, Gracefully Grayson is one of the first middle grade novels ever published about a transgender girl.
Alone at home, twelve-year-old Grayson Sender glows, immersed in beautiful thoughts and dreams. But at school, Grayson grasps at shadows, determined to fly under the radar. Because Grayson has been holding onto a secret for what seems like forever: “he” is a girl on the inside, stuck in the wrong gender’s body.
The weight of this secret is crushing, but leaving it behind would mean facing ridicule, scorn, and rejection. Despite these dangers, Grayson’s true self itches to break free. Strengthened by an unexpected friendship and a caring teacher who gives her a chance to step into the spotlight, Grayson might finally have the tools to let her inner light shine.
Debut author Ami Polonsky’s moving, beautifully-written novel shines with the strength of a young person’s spirit and the enduring power of acceptance.
2. I Am J, Cris Beam
J always felt different. He was certain that eventually everyone would understand who he really was; a boy mistakenly born as a girl. Yet as he grew up, his body began to betray him; eventually J stopped praying to wake up a “real boy” and started covering up his body, keeping himself invisible - from his family, from his friends…from the world. But after being deserted by the best friend he thought would always be by his side, J decides that he’s done hiding - it’s time to be who he really is. And this time he is determined not to give up, no matter the cost.
An inspiring story of self-discovery, of choosing to stand up for yourself, and of finding your own path - readers will recognize a part of themselves in J’s struggle to love his true self.
3. Parrotfish, Ellen Wittlinger
“Last week I cut my hair, bought some boys’ clothes and shoes, wrapped a large ACE bandage around my chest to flatten my fortunately-not-large breasts, and began looking for a new name.”
Angela Katz-McNair has never felt quite right as a girl. Her whole life is leading up to the day she decides to become Grady, a guy. While coming out as transgendered feels right to Grady, he isn’t prepared for the reaction he gets from everyone else. His mother is upset, his younger sister is mortified, and his best friend, Eve, won’t acknowledge him in public. Why can’t people just let Grady be himself?
Grady’s life is miserable until he finds friends in some unexpected places – like the school geek, Sebastian, who explains that there is precedent in the natural world (parrotfish change gender when they need to, and the newly male fish are the alpha males), and Kita, a senior who might just be Grady’s first love.
From acclaimed writer Ellen Wittlinger, this is the groundbreaking story of one teen’s search for self and his struggle for acceptance.
4. Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out, Susan Kuklin
A groundbreaking work of LGBT literature takes an honest look at the life, love, and struggles of transgender teens.
Author and photographer Susan Kuklin met and interviewed six transgender or gender-neutral young adults and used her considerable skills to represent them thoughtfully and respectfully before, during, and after their personal acknowledgment of gender preference. Portraits, family photographs, and candid images grace the pages, augmenting the emotional and physical journey each youth has taken. Each honest discussion and disclosure, whether joyful or heartbreaking, is completely different from the other because of family dynamics, living situations, gender, and the transition these teens make in recognition of their true selves.
5. Luna, Julie Anne Peters
Regan’s brother Liam can’t stand the person he is during the day. Like the moon from whom Liam has chosen his female namesake, his true self, Luna, only reveals herself at night. In the secrecy of his basement bedroom Liam transforms himself into the beautiful girl he longs to be, with help from his sister’s clothes and makeup. Now, everything is about to change-Luna is preparing to emerge from her cocoon. But are Liam’s family and friends ready to welcome Luna into their lives? Compelling and provocative, this is an unforgettable novel about a transgender teen’s struggle for self-identity and acceptance
6. She’s Not There: A Life in Two Genders, Jennifer Finney Boylan
The provocative bestseller She’s Not There is the winning, utterly surprising story of a person changing genders. By turns hilarious and deeply moving, Jennifer Finney Boylan explores the territory that lies between men and women, examines changing friendships, and rejoices in the redeeming power of family. Told in Boylan’s fresh voice, She’s Not There is about a person bearing and finally revealing a complex secret. As James evolves into Jennifer in scenes that are by turns tender, startling, and witty, a marvelously human perspective emerges on issues of love, sex, and the fascinating relationship between our physical and intuitive selves. Now with a new epilogue from the author and an afterword from Deirdre “Grace” Boylan, She’s Not There shines a light on the often confounding process of accepting ourselves.
7. Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation, Kate Bornstein and S. Bear Bergman
In the 15 years since the release of Gender Outlaw, Kate Bornstein’s groundbreaking challenge to gender ideology, transgender narratives have made their way from the margins to the mainstream and back again. Today’s transgenders and other sex/gender radicals are writing a drastically new world into being. In Gender Outlaws, Bornstein, together with writer, raconteur, and theater artist S. Bear Bergman, collects and contextualizes the work of this generation’s trans and genderqueer forward thinkers — new voices from the stage, on the streets, in the workplace, in the bedroom, and on the pages and websites of the world’s most respected mainstream news sources. Gender Outlaws includes essays, commentary, comic art, and conversations from a diverse group of trans-spectrum people who live and believe in barrier-breaking lives.
Today is the official Book Birthday for Everyone! It’s available in stores and on-line. If you would like a signed and personalized copy, you can visit Greenlight Bookstore and add your request for a signed and personalized copy in the comments section (step 2) during checkout.
Criss-cross America — on dogsleds and ships, stagecoaches
and trains — from pirate ships off the coast of the Carolinas to the peace,
love, and protests of 1960s Chicago. Join fifteen of today’s most talented
writers of young adult literature on a thrill ride through history with
American girls charting their own course. They are monsters and mediums,
bodyguards and barkeeps, screenwriters and schoolteachers, heiresses and hobos.
They’re making their own way in often-hostile lands, using every weapon in their
arsenals, facing down murderers and marriage proposals. And they all have a
story to tell.
As fans of children’s literature, we couldn’t be more thrilled about Jon Klassen’s 2013 Caldecott win. And as an imprint of Candlewick, his publisher, we couldn’t be more proud! Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful work. We’re so glad to see it recognized.
Paige’s life is perfect; perfect friends, perfect boyfriend, perfect everything. But after a drunk driving accident, Paige’s life begins to unravel. She is saved only by her creative writing class and new outsider friends.
Lets get one thing clear right away: All three of the stars are for the writing. Backes should just write poetry, she has a beautiful way of expressing thoughts and making you feel like you are really there. Unfortunately, her plots and characters need work.
Paige is my new number one most-disliked main character ever. She was so whiny. I get it’s hard to let go of your old life, but it was pretty pathetic after a while. She was sent to Paris for the summer after the accident, and couldn’t stop whining about it. PARIS. As an AU PAIR. She kept talking about how much she hated the baby she was taking care of. Look, I babysit a lot for a lot of different kinds of families. It’s impossible to seriously hate a child, especially a baby, who you’re caring for. You feel connected to them. And who were those people she was sent to live with? I don’t remember being told who they were, just that they fought a lot and had a baby they didn’t care for. So I found that whole part so unbelievable. She was such a brat! She got a little better at the end, but not enough.
I liked her new friends ok. They were a little more realist. Her other friends, Nicki and Lacey didn’t feel like real people. They were flat and had the same personality.
The plot sounded so good in the summary, but I was disappointed in how little they actually talked about drunk driving. It’s a pretty serious topic, but they treated it like it was nothing. And then, thrown in randomly like the author decided the book needed some scandal or something, a gay teacher is attacked for his orientation. It was so randomly thrown it, it felt fake. And then how everyone reacted was so outdated, I had to check and make sure what time period the book took place in.
So, I would recommend this as a library book, or as a unserious read. I hope Backes writes more, but hopefully with some better characters and plots.
Today I’m excited to share my Q&A with Maggie Thrash, whose emotional graphic novel, Honor Girl (Candlewick Press, $19.99, 272 pages), chronicles a fateful summer when the author first fell in love while at an all-girls sleepaway camp in the South. Thrash, also a writer for Rookie Magazine, spoke with me about accepting and embracing her sexuality, her years at Hampshire College, sleepwalking, the mental demands of riflery, and recognizing that pivotal moment when you realize you’ve grown up.
What moved you to write Honor Girl at this point in your life?
I needed to say this before I could say anything else. This book is the Maggie Thrash starting point. So much about my life– the way I think, the way I deal with love– all traces back to how I handled this summer. It was the first time in my life that I was faced with real, intense, adult emotions. Before this summer, I was a kid, and afterwards I was not—and there was no going back.
Why did you decide to write a graphic novel instead of a traditional book? Honor Girl focuses on a very specific period in your life - your discovery/acknowledgement of your sexuality, and your first love. Was it difficult reliving your adolescence? Was this book your way of coming out to the world?
I think comics are the best medium for memoir because you can be up-front and objective about yourself while also being incredibly personal. It wasn’t very difficult for me to relieve this period, because in many ways I’m kind of stunted– I still feel fifteen years old. So it wasn’t a stretch for me to reach back and relive those feelings. And yes, this is definitely me coming out to the world. I’d always been very secretive about my relationships with women, because being secretive made life easier. But the world has changed a lot in the last fifteen years, and diversity is being celebrated now.
Did you ever reconnect with Erin, or is she firmly in the past?
She’s read the book, and we’re going to have lunch soon…. I’m kind of terrified! It must be very strange to see yourself and your memories through some else’s eyes, and to have that version published for the world to see. But she has been immensely supportive and cool.
What happened afterwards? You attended Hampshire College, and as a fellow graduate of a Pioneer Valley school (Smith), I can easily imagine that Hampshire was a far cry from Bellflower and Atlanta. Did you experience any culture shock when you got to college? What were your first impressions? How did attending Hampshire, and spending your undergraduate years in such an environment, influence your work and life?
Yes, Hampshire College was a huge shock! There was a nudist, and a girl who made art exhibits out of garbage piles, and a guy who dressed like a pirate every single day. The place was teeming with gay people and nonconformists and a wide variety of weirdos. It’s funny, on the first day of orientation, I found this one Midwestern boy who was wearing “normal” clothes– like a Polo shirt and jeans– and I latched onto him and he became my best friend. We navigated all the craziness together. I have probably never been happier in my life as I was at Hampshire College. It is a strange, wonderful heaven.
Have you stayed in touch with any of the girls from Bellflower?
I purposefully avoided contacting anyone while I was writing the book. I wanted to stay true to my perspective and not feel beholden to other people’s memories. It’s wild how two people can remember one event so differently. The idea of having to serve multiple perspectives was too overwhelming. All the girls in the book have their own stories. What ended up happening to the character of “Bethany” is pretty crazy, for instance. It could be a whole book of its own. But I was just like, I gotta stay focused and tell my own story here.
As a writer for Rookie you know that many young girls read and look up to you. Did you feel any of that pressure while writing?
Rookie readers are very compassionate. They get that everyone is flawed. I am not a fantastic role model in Honor Girl. I let people push me around, and I didn’t have confidence in my feelings or my intuition. But it’s important for me to be real with girls and to tell them, “You’re gonna lose some battles in life. It happens. It doesn’t mean you’ll be a loser forever.”
You’re pretty good with a gun, but you haven’t shot anything in over a decade. Why? Do you miss it? Could you talk about why you took up riflery in the first place? (You allude to riflery as a way to bond with your father.)
It’s pretty random how I took up shooting. Mostly I did it because it wasn’t a popular activity at the camp, so it was a great way to get away from everyone (at camp you’re constantly surrounded). I definitely didn’t expect to be such a prodigy. Riflery is an interesting sport, because all it takes to excel is concentration and confidence. It’s 100% mental. When I went back to camp the next summer, the summer after the one portrayed in the book, I was a different person. My confidence had faltered, and I lost my magic. Like most prodigies, I totally flamed out. I want to shoot soon just to see what happens, to see if lost magic can be recovered. I’ll let you know how it goes!
Do you still sleepwalk? If so, what do you do about it? If not, how did you stop?
I rarely sleep-walk anymore. I grew out of it I guess. But I have a new, equally disruptive sleep malfunction where I wake up in the middle of the night screaming my head off. Usually I’m screaming for my dad, like, “DAAAAAAAAAAD!” It’s probably a deeply ingrained thing for girls in this patriarchal society, to scream for their fathers to save them.
Did you really see Brigadoon after you left camp? It seemed an appropriate coda to Bellflower disappearing into the past, just like Brigadoon vanishes into the ether.
Oh yeah. Every year my mom and I saw a musical on the way home from camp.Brigadoon always stuck with me. Partly because I’m Scottish and because the title song is so beautiful. But I also love how Brigadoon represents how nothing lasts. All anyone wants is to be happy and for time to stop. Brigadoon captures those two impossible desires.
What are you working on now?
I have something pretty different in store for next year. It is fiction, and non-graphic. It’s a teen mystery. I think it will be interesting for Honor Girl readers to read it and be like, wow, so this is what became of Maggie Thrash. She grew up to write books about teenagers murdering each other. Nice.
Honor Girl, by Maggie Thrash; Candlewick Press, $19.99, 272 pages, ages 14 and up.
Why not visit your local bookstore? Chris Haughton Poster
BREAKING NEWS: January 22, 2012 Chris Haughton’s LIttle Owl Lost won the Dutch Picture Book of the Year Award! Congratulations!! Chris!! Click here for the link to Chris’ website to read all about it.
Chris Haughton, author and illustrator of Little Owl Lost from Candlewick Press has created a beautiful poster for bookstores and one for libraries. Click on the image above for a high resolution downloadable image.
This past spring, I had a tremendous amount of fun selling Little Owl Lost to my bookstore buyers. It was a book that I never grew tired of presenting and seeing my buyer’s reactions when they read it for the first time. Meanwhile, I’d jump in here and there and amplify the experience somehow by portraying my own interpretations of particular scenes.
A visual treat, rich with warmth and humor, Little Owl Lost is a reassuring story time book. Here are a few illustrations to give you an idea.
These interior images are from the British edition of the book. As the story progresses, a number of animals are thought by the squirrel to be the owlet’s mother. Upon close inspection, the background scenes reveal more that adds interest to subsequent readings. I love the finger pointing, the enthusiasm of the squirrel and the bewilderment in the faces of the animals. Bold colors and interesting graphic design lend a contemporary, fresh feel. And just in time, Chris has a new book with Candlewick coming out in spring 2012, Oh No, George! I can’t wait.
Chris has also been selected as a rising new star in picture book illustration by Booktrust Children’s Books in the UK for 2011. Click here for more information about the award and the other winners. Congratulations, Chris!
Here is more from Chris from the author biography on the Candlewick Press website:
I’m an illustrator and designer from Ireland. I’ve illustrated for The Guardian, The Independent and Pomme d'Api as well as illustrations and design-work for international advertising campaigns. During my travels in Asia I became interested in fair trade and when I moved to London I became involved in the Fair Trade movement and with People Tree. (commerce equitable) In 2007 I was named by Time magazine in their ‘DESIGN 100’ list for this fair trade work which also included some of the world’s most influential designers and architects on the list. Little Owl Lost is my first picture book.
About My Work:
I have been a full-time illustrator for the past 7 years. I have been working mainly for magazines and advertising but I always wanted to write and illustrate my own childrens book. Before I had started with illustration I spent a year teaching very young children English in Hong Kong. I really enjoyed these classes and I was very lucky with the classes as they were very informal. The classes were called 'English fun’ and they were after school lessons so that were mainly just child minding. In many of them there were different ages of children and there was no lesson to be covered so we played games together in English. I was allowed to come up with some of my own lessons. Many of the games I devised were based on books that I picked up from our little library of English books in the school. We read the books and did a bit of drama and role play afterwards or made up our own stories and illustrated them in art class. I think I got a good feeling for what made a successful book in that environment with the children.
At that point I could think of some different ways those books we had read could be improved upon and I thought of writing and illustrating books seriously.
Since then my illustration career took off and I had been preoccupied with the deadlines and fast working pace of a commercial illustrator. All throughout this time every year I promised myself that this year I would do a childrens book and 4 years went by until finally I set a strict deadline for myself.
I originally had a completely different premises for the book and the introduction of each character. In the very first draft there was three clever birds who had to go in search of food everyday in the forest and trick the other animals of the forest. On each page they would meet a new animal (a snake, tiger, elephant) and trick it in different ways. I wanted it to be repetitive in the same way as it is. After a lot of thought I thought in the end avoiding being eaten isnt a very suitable subject for that age! I needed another way for the character’s to engage with the animals of the forest! Being lost is probably a good subject as its something that young children can relate to.
Although the plot changed a few times there were a few things that I was sure i wanted to keep in the story somehow….
1. I had wanted to do a fun and light book that was theatrical and very visual. In Europe we have plays for children called pantomimes where there is some visual humor. The 'here is your mother!’ 'are you sure this is not your mother?? dialogue is something that can engage the children. At each character meeting hopefully the child will engage and join in and say 'no no thats not his mother’. With children of that age that is necessary because if they can’t join in somehow they lose interest pretty fast.
2. Also in pantomimes often the actor is standing behind the set out of view of another actor but the children can see him and will call out. I found that sort of humor worked very well in my classes (the children had varying levels of English and it was the best way to get everyone involved) and I wanted to get that feeling somehow into the plot. That is why I wanted to have the mother in all of the pages but hidden from first view… that was very important to me, so it can be read and re-read, as there is something more to the first viewing that the children can pick up on.
3. I wanted it to be repetitive, so that young children can join easily with the story.
4. I wanted it so that it can be read pretty much without words. even very young children can follow in some way with the images.
5. Lastly I wanted to have some sort of visual symbolism in the book. In my editorial illustration there is usually some sort of metaphor or symbolism. Trees and roots become 'growth’ or mazes and roads become 'obstacles’ or 'paths’. That sort of imagery lends itself to illustrating abstract ideas.
Although the story is quite lighthearted I like the idea and imagery of a little animal being lost in a forest. It is a strong image and it can be applied to abstract notions of 'being lost’. That is why I wanted to add the Robinson Crusoe quote. I like the idea of being 'lost’. It can have more abstract meanings so everyone can relate to it.
Three things you didn’t know about me.
1. My book actually first came out in Korean so although I had written it, I couldn’t read it. I just looked at the pictures.
2. My editor tells me I’m like the squirrel in the story. I get a bit ahead of myself. I want to get finished with writing the story as soon as I can so that I can get to drawing the pictures. Then I have to re-draw the pictures because I hadn’t thought the story through. I should listen to her more often.
3. 'Coloring in’ is easy if you do it on the computer.
Why Peanuts still matters: The Legacy of Charles Schulz and his affect on other writers and illustrators.
@BibliostarTV video featuring Newbery Medal winning author Kate DiCamillo (The Tale of Despereaux, Because of Winn-Dixie, and her newest, Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures); Comic illustrator and author Stephan Pastis (Pearls Before Swine, Timmy Failure) and Washington Post cartoonist and Comic Riffs blogger, Michael Cavna. (VIDEO)
“For library geeks, theater geeks, fans of the occult, demons, barbers, demon barbers, high school students, school librarians, library students, Sondheim fans, Italian speakers, actors, singers, prop mistresses, yeah pretty much everybody.” –Angie Smits, Southern Territory Associates
“…terrifically entertaining from start to finish…” –Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, starred review
9780763660383, Candlewick Press, Cloth, $16.99
“Jones has crafted a menacing, spooky Victorian London full of criminals and unfinished business, which is well balanced by the biting satire and buffoonery of the Bureau. Add to that a cast of fascinating, well-wrought characters—from the smarmy and threatening Jack, to the precocious, pot-stirring aspiring journalist, Clara—and it’s a winning combination of macabre atmosphere, whimsical antics, and heartfelt, earnest friendship.” –Booklist, starred review
9781419707827, Amulet Books, Cloth, $16.95
“Chupeco makes a powerful debut with this unsettling ghost story…told in a marvelously disjointed fashion from Okiku’s numbers-obsessed point of view, this story unfolds with creepy imagery and an intimate appreciation for Japanese horror, myth, and legend.” - Publishers Weekly starred review
“[A] Stephen King–like horror story…A chilling, bloody ghost story that resonates.” - Kirkus Reviews
9781402292187, Sourcebooks, Cloth, $16.99
“From vampires to ghosts and from strange creatures made of mercury to half-harpies, these beasts will broaden readers’ perspectives. Teens will never think about monsters in the same way again. Long after the last page is turned, these tales will linger in readers’ brains, in their closets, under their beds, and in the shadows.” –School Library Journal, starred review
Monstrous stories by M. T. Anderson, Paolo Bacigalupi, Nathan Ballingrud, Holly Black, Sarah Rees Brennan, Cassandra Clare, Nalo Hopkinson, Dylan Horrocks, Nik Houser, Alice Sola Kim, Kathleen Jenkins, Joshua Lewis, Kelly Link, Patrick Ness, G. Carl Purcell.
9780763664732, Candlewick Press, Cloth, $22.99
“All proper scary stories require a spooky, menacing atmosphere, and Auxier delivers the goods with his precise descriptions of the gothic setting and teasing hints of mystery and suspense.” –The Horn Book Magazine
“Lots of creepiness, memorable characters, a worthy message…atmospheric drawings and touches of humor amid the horror make this cautionary tale one readers will not soon forget.”
–Kirkus Reviews, starred review
9781419711442, Amulet Books, Cloth, $16.95
“If this isn’t the definitive edition of Hansel and Gretel, it’s absolutely necessary. The swirling lines look as though they might start moving if seen at just the right moment. The pictures have inspired Gaiman to write some of his most beautiful sentences, direct and horrifying…The Grimm version is as frightening as a bedtime story gets, but this version will scare people in new ways…” – Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“In this moving and artfully structured ghost tale, four generations of Irish women come together. A big part of the pleasure here is the rhythm of the language and the contrasting voices of the generations. Any opportunity to read it aloud would be a treat.” –Horn Book
“Written mostly in dialogue, at which Doyle excels, and populated with a charming foursome of Irish women, this lovely tale is as much about overcoming the fear of death as it is about death itself.”
–Publishers Weekly, starred review
9781419707988, Amulet Books, Paperback, $7.95
“A stunningly atmospheric and genuinely horrifying story.” — Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, starred review
“….A good, old-fashioned literary horror tale for sophisticated readers.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“Those who appreciate old-fashioned chillers will be rewarded by incident after unsettling incident…” —Booklist
Candlewick’s Five Questions (Plus One) with Patrick Ness
I’ve also been really, really thrilled about how people identify with Seth. About everybody who seems to identify with Seth. He’s a particular kind of kid, but that hasn’t stopped teenagers from embracing him, from all walks of life, and that’s really heartening. Nobody ever brings it up, which is great. Maybe the world has changed a bit.