Thursday, August 9, 2018

QSR: Laina's Queer Middle Grade Rec List Part 1

Alright, let's first talk about what I'm choosing to include. I am choosing to include both books with queer main characters, and books with significant queer characters, like a parent, older sibling, or maybe even a teacher. One of the reasons for this, as I've mentioned before, is that I think part of middle grade's function is a bit different than what we think of being more of YA's function.

While middle grade is absolutely about reflecting the reader's personal self, I also think that it's really important that middle grade fiction reflects the reader's family, and the world around them. This is one reason that parent and adult figures are very important in middle grade. That's why we need books about things like divorce, and single parents, and parents who are in jail. We need books that reflect a child's family in YA too, but it's especially important in MG. Kids who have queer adults in their lives should see them in books, too. And it shows that queer people don't just disappear at the age of eighteen.

So, let's do non-main characters first:

The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Levy

Released: June 22nd, 2014 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers

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.

The part where I talk: I'm also going to point out for this one that this has a relatively safe cover, where it's not very obvious that this is a queer book. That can also be important. Not something I'm going to point out every time, but something I want you to think about reading this list. Remember, most middle grade readers can't buy their own books or read e-books like teen readers.

Both of the Fletcher dads are gay. You can see my review here. Also I really need to read the sequel to this. I ordered it from the library, so hopefully it gets here soon.

Marco Impossible by Hannah Moskowitz

Released: March 19th, 2013 by Roaring Brook Press

Summary (from goodreads): Best friends Stephen and Marco know a thing or two about impossible missions. It's thanks to them that cell phone thieves at school are apprehended, lost puppies are returned, and gym uniforms are lent out to the forgetful thirteen-year-old masses.

When Marco finds out that Benji - the dream exchange student on whom he has a crush - and his band are playing at the high schoolprom, he enlists Stephen's help to crash prom and get Marco onstage to profess his love. But as most veteran operatives know, not all heists run smoothly. Stephen is sick of Marco calling the shots 99.97 percent of the time, and he's especially sick of being the sidekick.

On top of it all, Marco and Stephen need to act fast - before Benji goes back to England at the end of the school year. Even though these boys are experts in espionage, it's going to take a mission impossible to pull this maneuver off.

The part where I talk: This is told from Stephen's POV, and Marco is gay. See my review here... eventually, I don't think that post is even finished yet. Multitasking! This one is older so there are some choices are made in it that I don't think Hannah would make today, but I still think it stands up and it's got a lot of fun stuff mixed in with some really serious stuff.

Okay, onto the main character books!

Star-Crossed by Barbara Dee

Released: March 14th, 2017

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.

The part where I talk: Mattie is bisexual. In the original hardcover printing, the word "bisexual" is not used, but the paperback is updated so that it is presented as an option, though Mattie has not settled on it as her option, which is fine. I'm pretty sure that this is the first mainstream middle grade book with a bisexual main character. Also, it's just really cute and I liked it a lot.

Drum Roll, Please by Lisa Jenn Bigelow

Released: June 26th, 2018

Summary (from goodreads): Find the confidence to rock out to your own beat.

Melly only joined the school band because her best friend, Olivia, begged her to. But to her surprise, quiet Melly loves playing the drums. It’s the only time she doesn’t feel like a mouse.

Now, she and Olivia are about to spend the next two weeks at Camp Rockaway, jamming under the stars in the Michigan woods.

But this summer brings big changes for Melly: her parents split up, her best friend ditches her, and Melly finds herself falling for a girl at camp named Adeline. To top it off, Melly's not sure she has what it takes to be a real rock 'n' roll drummer. Will she be able to make music from all the noise in her heart?

The part where I talk: And this is the only other middle grade book I know with a bisexual main character. So far, at least, I'm pretty sure there's at least one coming out either this year or next, but I can't name them off the top of my head. This does not use the word "bisexual" (or pansexual, could you imagine that?) as far as I know (I read an arc, not a finished copy), but Melly does have crushy-y type feelings about boys and girls.

Stop being afraid of the word bisexual, middle grade!

This book has not, in my opinion, gotten the attention it deserves. It's so cute!

Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake

Released: March 6th, 2018

Summary (from goodreads): When a tornado rips through town, twelve-year-old Ivy Aberdeen's house is destroyed and her family of five is displaced. Ivy feels invisible and ignored in the aftermath of the storm--and what's worse, her notebook filled with secret drawings of girls holding hands has gone missing.

Mysteriously, Ivy's drawings begin to reappear in her locker with notes from someone telling her to open up about her identity. Ivy thinks--and hopes--that this someone might be her classmate, another girl for whom Ivy has begun to develop a crush. Will Ivy find the strength and courage to follow her true feelings?

The part where I talk: The newest addition to my on-going list! Ivy identifies as "likes girls", and doesn't currently feel attraction to other genders. At the end of the book, Ivy has not decided on a label, and that is okay. As such, I am only calling this book a queer book, not a book with a lesbian MC or anything like that, as Ivy has not stated identifying with any term in particular. (It really bothers me when we try to force labels on young characters who haven't picked one yet. Let them have time to figure it out! They don't need to make a decision yet.)

Side note, this book defines bisexuality in a wonderful way, and it's really nice to see the inclusion of other genders in the words an adult uses to Ivy, not just "both boys and girls". Especially in a middle grade book. Good job, book.

What's that, five?

Let's make this five for now, then! Are there any middle grade books you'd recommend I read? Let me know in the comments.

Peace and cookies,

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