Thursday, August 3, 2017

QSR: 21 Middle Grade Books with Queer Characters

This post is going to be a little different than my other lists. I tried to have my lists only have books where the main character was queer, at least the books I chose. It felt right there. While I definitely found ones where that was true here, I'm also including books where, say, the main character has queer parents. In middle grade, books where the main character is queer are incredibly important, obviously, but I think it's also important to show adult queer characters, to show that things can be okay and normal, you know? I also think more YA should have happy, non-tragic queer adult characters, sidenote, but I've talked before that I think sometimes MG and YA have different purposes and that's okay. And what does it say when kids (who may or may not be queer themselves) can't see their queer families in books?

I'm rambling a little, but I wanted to talk about why I chose to include what I did. I'll point out when it's not the main character, to the best of my knowledge. And again, I haven't read these. Thanks to Vikki Vansickle, Lee Wind, and LGBTQ Reads.

Luv Ya Bunches by Lauren Myracle

Published: October 1st, 2009 by Harry N. Abrams
Genre: Contemporary MG
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): What do Katie-Rose, Yasaman, Milla, and Violet all have in common? Other than being named after flowers, practically nothing. Katie-Rose is a film director in training. Yasaman is a computer whiz. Milla is third in command of the A list. And Violet is the new girl in school.

They’re fab girls, all of them, but they sure aren’t friends. And if evil queen bee Medusa— ’scuse me, Modessa—has her way, they never will be. But this is the beginning of a new school year, when anything can happen and social worlds can collide...

Note from Laina: One of the girls has two moms, and people have seriously gotten this serious banned all over the place for that. Seriously.

The Misfits by James Howe

Published: October 1st, 2001 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Genre: Contemporary MG
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Skeezie, Addie, Joe, and Bobby -- they've been friends forever. They laugh together, have lunch together, and get together once a week at the Candy Kitchen to eat ice cream and talk about important issues. Life isn't always fair, but at least they have each other -- and all they really want to do is survive the seventh grade.

That turns out to be more of a challenge than any of them had anticipated. Starting with Addie's refusal to say the Pledge of Allegiance and her insistence on creating a new political party to run for student council, the Gang of Five is in for the ride of their lives. Along the way they will learn about politics and popularity, love and loss, and what it means to be a misfit. After years of getting by, they are given the chance to stand up and be seen -- not as the one-word jokes their classmates have tried to reduce them to, but as the full, complicated human beings they are just beginning to discover they truly are.

The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Levy

Published: January 1st, 2014 by Delacort Books for Young Readers
Genre: Contemporary MG
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Meet the Fletchers. Their year will be filled with new schools, old friends, a grouchy neighbor, hungry skunks, leaking ice rinks, school plays, wet cats, and scary tales told in the dark!

There’s Sam, age twelve, who’s mostly interested in soccer, food, and his phone; Jax, age ten, who’s psyched for fourth grade and thinks the new neighbor stinks, and not just because of the skunk; Eli, age ten (but younger than Jax), who’s thrilled to be starting this year at the Pinnacle School, where everyone’s the smart kid; and Frog (not his real name), age six, who wants everyone in kindergarten to save a seat for his invisible cheetah. Also Dad and Papa.

WARNING: This book contains cat barf, turtle pee, and some really annoying homework assignments.

Note from Laina: Obviously the family in this has two dads.

Better Nate Than Ever

Published: February 5th, 2013 by Simon and Schuster Books For Young Readers
Genre: Contemporary MG
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Nate Foster has big dreams. His whole life, he’s wanted to star in a Broadway show. (Heck, he'd settle for *seeing* a Broadway show.) But how is Nate supposed to make his dreams come true when he’s stuck in Jankburg, Pennsylvania, where no one (except his best pal Libby) appreciates a good show tune?

With Libby’s help, Nate plans a daring overnight escape to New York. There's an open casting call for E.T.: The Musical, and Nate knows this could be the difference between small-town blues and big-time stardom.

George by Alex Gino

Published: August 25th, 2015 by Scholastic Press
Genre: Contemporary MG
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): BE WHO YOU ARE. When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she's not a boy. She knows she's a girl.

George thinks she'll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte's Web. George really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can't even try out for the part. . . because she's a boy.

With the help of her best friend, Kelly, George comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte – but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all.

Note from Laina: This is the summary/blurb that Alex's website uses as well, so that's what I went with, but remember that we shouldn't deadname Melissa, okay? Just putting that out there.

Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky

Published: November 4th, 2014 by Disney-Hyperion
Genre: Contemporary MG
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): 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.

Note from Laina: I've heard this might be problematic, so I'd suggest reading some reviews. (I love this list of reviews in particular.) But it does exist, so I'm listing it.

The Pants Project by Cat Clarke

Published: March 7th, 2017 by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Genre: Contemporary MG
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Whoever wrote the uniform policy decided (whyyy?) that girls had to wear skirts, while boys were allowed to wear pants.

Sexist. Dumb. Unfair.

“Girls must wear a black, pleated, knee-length skirt.”

I bet I read those words a hundred times during summer vacation. The problem wasn’t the last word in that sentence. Skirt wasn’t really the issue, not for me.
The issue was the first word. Girls.

Here’s the thing:
I may seem like a girl, but on the inside, I’m a boy.

Note from Laina: The MC in this also has two moms.

The Lotterys Plus One by Emma Donoghue

Published: March 28th, 2017 by Arthur A. Levine Books
Genre: Contemporary MG
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Sumac Lottery is nine years old and the self-proclaimed "good girl" of her (VERY) large, (EXTREMELY) unruly family. And what a family the Lotterys are: four parents, children both adopted and biological, and a menagerie of pets, all living and learning together in a sprawling house called Camelottery. Then one day, the news breaks that one of their grandfathers is suffering from dementia and will be coming to live with them. And not just any grandfather; the long dormant "Grumps," who fell out with his son so long ago that he hasn't been part of any of their lives.

Suddenly, everything changes. Sumac has to give up her room to make the newcomer feel at home. She tries to be nice, but prickly Grumps clearly disapproves of how the Lotterys live: whole grains, strange vegetables, rescue pets, a multicultural household... He's worse than just tough to get along with -- Grumps has got to go! But can Sumac help him find a home where he belongs?

Note from Laina: Honestly I don't actually know what this book's deal is, but I think something or someone is queer in it. It's tagged that way on goodreads, at least.

The Accidental Adventures of India McAllister by Charlotte Agell

Published: July 22nd, 2010 by Henry Holt and Co
Genre: Contemporary YA
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Fourth grade is a year of changes, challenges, and ordinary joys for India McAllister. She lives in Maine with her artist mom and their dog, Tofu. Her father lives in the next town over with his new partner, Richard and their bird, Beatrice Strawberry. India – named for the ink, not the subcontinent – was adopted from China as a baby.

Being the only Chinese girl in her small town fuels India's search for identity. India reports in her own words and drawings about life, adventures (many with her good friend Colby) and all things annoying as well as what makes her happy. First three on the happy list: Tofu, Bird, and Colby!

Note from Laina: Queer parent in this one.

Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart

Published: May 3rd, 2016 for Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Genre: Contemporary MG
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Lily Jo McGrother is a girl. But being a girl is not so easy when you look like a boy. Especially when you’re in the eighth grade.

Dunkin Dorfman, birth name Norbert Dorfman, is dealing with bipolar disorder and has just moved from the New Jersey town he’s called home for the past thirteen years. This would be hard enough, but the fact that he is also hiding from a painful secret makes it even worse.

One summer morning, Lily Jo McGrother meets Dunkin Dorfman, and their lives forever change.

Note from Laina: Kinda edited the summary from goodreads. Thought the deadnaming was unncessary. I also saw some reviews on goodreads saying the bipolar rep was not the best, so maybe look reviews up for this one, too.

Marco Impossible by Hannah Moskowitz

Published: March 19th, 2013 by Roaring Brook Press
Genre: Contemporary MG
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Thirteen-year-old best friends Stephen and Marco attempt a go-for-broke heist to break into the high school prom and get Marco onstage to confess his love for (and hopefully steal the heart of) Benji, the adorable exchange student and bass player of the prom band.

Of course, things don't always go according to plan, and every heist comes with its fair share of hijinks.


My Mixed-Up Berry Blue Summer


Published: January 1st, 2012 by Harcourt Brace and Company
Genre: Contemporary MG
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Twelve-year-old June Farrell is sure of one thing—she’s great at making pies—and she plans to prove it by winning a blue ribbon in the Champlain Valley Fair pie competition. But a backlash against Vermont’s civil union law threatens her family’s security and their business. Even when faced with bullying, June won’t give up on winning the blue ribbon; more importantly, she won’t give up on her family.

Note from Laina: Queer parent in this one, and also this sounds adorable and I want to read it right now. Also I kind of want pie now.

See You At Harry's by Jo Knowles

Published: May 1st, 2012 by Candlewick Press
Genre: Contemporary MG (What else?)
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Twelve-year-old Fern feels invisible. It seems as though everyone in her family has better things to do than pay attention to her: Mom (when she’s not meditating) helps Dad run the family restaurant; Sarah is taking a gap year after high school; and Holden pretends that Mom and Dad and everyone else doesn’t know he’s gay, even as he fends off bullies at school.

Then there’s Charlie: three years old, a "surprise" baby, the center of everyone’s world. He’s devoted to Fern, but he’s annoying, too, always getting his way, always dirty, always commanding attention. If it wasn’t for Ran, Fern’s calm and positive best friend, there’d be nowhere to turn. Ran’s mantra, "All will be well," is soothing in a way that nothing else seems to be. And when Ran says it, Fern can almost believe it’s true.

But then tragedy strikes- and Fern feels not only more alone than ever, but also responsible for the accident that has wrenched her family apart. All will not be well. Or at least all will never be the same.

Note from Laina: Gay older sibling obviously.

Star-Crossed by Barbara Dee

Published: March 14th, 2017 by Aladdin
Genre: Contemporary MG
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Mattie, a star student and passionate reader, is delighted when her English teacher announces the eighth grade will be staging Romeo and Juliet. And she is even more excited when, after a series of events, she finds herself playing Romeo, opposite Gemma Braithwaite’s Juliet. Gemma, the new girl at school, is brilliant, pretty, outgoing—and, if all that wasn’t enough: British.

As the cast prepares for opening night, Mattie finds herself growing increasingly attracted to Gemma and confused, since, just days before, she had found herself crushing on a boy named Elijah. Is it possible to have a crush on both boys AND girls? If that wasn’t enough to deal with, things backstage at the production are starting to rival any Shakespearean drama! In this sweet and funny look at the complicated nature of middle school romance, Mattie learns how to be the lead player in her own life.

Best Man by Richard Peck

Published: September 20th, 2016 by Dial Books
Genre: Contemporary MG
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Archer Magill has spent a lively five years of grade school with one eye out in search of grown-up role models. Three of the best are his grandpa, the great architect; his dad, the great vintage car customizer; and his uncle Paul, who is just plain great. These are the three he wants to be. Along the way he finds a fourth--Mr. McLeod, a teacher. In fact, the first male teacher in the history of the school.

But now here comes middle school and puberty. Change. Archer wonders how much change has to happen before his voice does. He doesn't see too far ahead, so every day or so a startling revelation breaks over him. Then a really big one when he's the best man at the wedding of two of his role models. But that gets ahead of the story.

The House You Pass on the Way by Jacqueline Woodson

Published: October 27th, 2003 by Speak
Genre: Contemporary MG
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Staggerlee is used to being alone. As the granddaughter of celebrities and the daughter of an interracial couple in an all-black town, she has become adept at isolating herself from curious neighbors.

But then her cousin, Trout, comes to visit. Trout is exactly like Staggerlee wishes she could be: outspoken, sure of herself, beautiful. Finally, Staggerlee has a friend, someone she can share her deepest, most private thoughts with. Someone who will teach her how to be the strong girl she longs to be.

But is Trout really the girl Staggerlee thinks she is?

Letters in the Attic by Bonnie Shimko

Published: August 30th, 2005 by Chicago Review Press
Genre: Contemporary YA
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Lizzy McMann is a feisty twelve-year-old who lives with her mother and Manny, her father (she thinks), in a fleabag hotel. One night, Manny’s sudden announcement that he wants a divorce causes mother and daughter to move to upstate New York to live with Lizzy’s grandmother—a mixed blessing.

At school, Lizzy befriends, then falls in love with, Eva Singer, who is dyslexic, looks like Natalie Wood and lives right down the street. Like all girls her age, Lizzy has to deal with her first period, her first bra and her first boyfriend. But what scares her most is her love for Eva.

She is also concerned with getting a new husband for Mama—especially after reading Mama’s letters in the attic. Then Eva gets a boyfriend and Mama’s life enters what seems to be a new crisis.

The Other Boy by M. G. Hennessey

Published: September 20th, 2016 by HarperCollins
Genre: Contemporary MG
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Twelve-year-old Shane Woods is just a regular boy. He loves pitching for his baseball team, working on his graphic novel, and hanging out with his best friend, Josh.

But Shane is keeping something private, something that might make a difference to his teammates, to Josh, and to his new crush, Madeline. And when a classmate threatens to reveal his secret, Shane’s whole world comes crashing down.

It will take a lot of courage for Shane to ignore the hate and show the world that he’s still the same boy he was before. And in the end, those who stand beside him may surprise everyone, including Shane.

Best Friend Next Door by Carolyn Mackler 

Published: May 26th, 2015 by Scholastic Press
Genre: Contemporary MG
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Meet Hannah. Her name is a palindrome. Her birthday is on New Year's. She wishes she had a cat. She's medium height and a little awkward. Her life has NOT been fun lately -- her dad and stepmom are having a baby and, worst of all, her best friend next door just moved away. Now a new girl is here, taking over her best friend's bedroom . . . and her own identity.

Meet Emme. Her name is a palindrome. Her birthday is on New Year's. She loves her enormous orange cat. She's so short that last week she was mistaken for a kindergartner. She's found moving hard . . . but at least there's the girl next door, Hannah. Maybe they'll become friends?

While Hannah and Emme are alike in so many ways, they're also different in some wrong ways, too. Is this the perfect friendship . . . or a recipe for disaster?

Note from Laina: One of the girls has two moms.

The Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan

Published: October 4th, 2016 by Disney-Hyperion
Genre: MG Fantasy
Part of a series? This is the second in the Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Thor's hammer is missing again. The thunder god has a disturbing habit of misplacing his weapon--the mightiest force in the Nine Worlds. But this time the hammer isn't just lost, it has fallen into enemy hands.

If Magnus Chase and his friends can't retrieve the hammer quickly, the mortal worlds will be defenseless against an onslaught of giants. Ragnarok will begin. The Nine Worlds will burn. Unfortunately, the only person who can broker a deal for the hammer's return is the gods' worst enemy, Loki--and the price he wants is very high.

Note from Laina: This is like the only middle grade book I can find with a genderfluid character. I know very little about this series honestly, but I'd be remiss not to mention it.

Also, this one made me really how ridiculously lacking middle grade fiction is in non-contemporary books with queer characters. Holy cow and I thought the YA lists were bad. There's this, and I decided to add also the only one I have read:

The Littlest Bigfoot by Jennifer Weiner

Published: September 13th, 2016 by Simon and Schuster
Genre: Fantasy MG
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Alice Mayfair, twelve years old, slips through the world unseen and unnoticed. Ignored by her family and shipped off to her eighth boarding school, Alice would like a friend. And when she rescues Millie Maximus from drowning in a lake one day, she finds one.

But Millie is a Bigfoot, part of a clan who dwells deep in the woods. Most Bigfoots believe that people—No-Furs, as they call them—are dangerous, yet Millie is fascinated with the No-Fur world. She is convinced that humans will appreciate all the things about her that her Bigfoot tribe does not: her fearless nature, her lovely singing voice, and her desire to be a star.

Alice swears to protect Millie’s secret. But a league of Bigfoot hunters is on their trail, led by a lonely kid named Jeremy. And in order to survive, Alice and Millie have to put their trust in each other—and have faith in themselves—above all else.

Note from Laina continued: There's a teacher in this who's nonbinary and uses neopronouns. It's a relatively small character, but we're not actually swimming in enby rep in middle grade, so I figured it was worth mentioning.

Okay! Scouts, do you have any queer MG I didn't mention? Leave it in the comments!

Peace and popsicles,
Laina

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