Though Pride month recently wrapped up, the need for these titles lasts all year. These positive, inclusive graphic novels span many genres (contemporary, fantasy, mystery, memoir) and include LGBTQia* characters just going about their business, whether that be going to school, finding love, solving crimes, rescuing princesses, or reaping souls. Of course, this is not an exhaustive list – add your favorites in the comments below!
Given the popularity of comics, it isn’t surprising that many works originally created and released as books and films have been adapted into comics and graphic novels. Not only does this bring these stories to a new audience, but in the process of adapting and illustrating these stories, the creators of the comics are able to add their own take on the original version. In the past, I’ve written about Hope Larson’s adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time and Leigh Dragoon’s adaptation of Legend by Marie Lu in my post on science fiction comics, but this list offers even more options for thought provoking adaptations of some popular works.
Each year, School Library Journal presents a Day of Dialog, which allows librarians, educators, and library students the chance to come together and learn the latest about childrens and teens publishing trends and upcoming releases. This was the first time I have attended a Day of Dialog and I would definitely recommend future attendance to anyone who works with children and/or teens promoting books and reading. Check out my recap of the middle school/high school panels and speakers from the day!
“Who Can Turn the World On With Her Smile? Who Can Turn A Nothing Day and Make It All Seem Worthwhile?“ (*I know many of you know this old TV theme song and are singing along, right?)
Did you know that this week is National Smile Week? I think it is promoting being friendly and welcoming towards one another. It’s summer so it makes sense that many of us are happier and smiling – especially if you’re on vacation as you read this.
Since it’s such an optimistic sounding week, I thought I would try to come up with some books that go along with the topic of smiling.
Although this autobiographical graphic novel chronicles Raina’s often painful dental experiences after she accidentally knocked out her front tooth and damaged the one next to it in 6th grade, it does end on a cheerful note and a big smile. The years before that, though, sound very painful as Raina describes in graphic detail (no pun intended) how she underwent numerous dental surgeries, had braces put on several times, had to wear the oh-so stylish headgear at night, as well as a retainer with fake teeth! She is forced to endure all this from sixth grade until she gets her braces off for good in her sophomore year of high school.
Another character you might remember who has braces (and glasses and frizzy hair) is 14-year-old Meg Murray from A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, in both the novel and in the graphic novel adaptation illustrated by Hope Larson. Both Raina and Meg learn to stop being so self-critical and to not let their outward appearance affect how they feel on the inside. I can totally relate to both Raina and Meg, because, I too, had to wear braces for years, from 3rd grade until 8th grade (and have had glasses from a young age too). The pain of wearing braces is worth it in the end to have a great smile.
Sooner after Raina’s accident, her dentist tried to put her two damaged front teeth back into place, but they went up even further into her gums instead. She’s horrified and says, “I look like a vampire!!” After more treatment, when her teeth still don’t seem to be responding, Raina fearfully asks, “So am I gonna look like a vampire forever??”
She doesn’t end up looking like a vampire, but teenaged Chris isn’t so lucky in M. T. Anderson’s often graphic novel Thirsty. Chris is having a lot of trouble adjusting to the fact that he appears to be turning into a vampire. He keeps telling himself that he has to, “Keep smiling for another few weeks, until the curse is lifted. Keep smiling, I think, while my teeth are still square.” He’s trying his hardest not to give in to his burgeoning bloodlust. But, it’s almost impossible – and having aching braces just makes it even harder. As his hunger gets the best of him, he gives in and says, “I lower my mouth. My open lips just nuzzle my forearm…..” and then before he knows it, “My braces are just one big loopy tangle.”
I think getting smiled at by Chris might not be such a welcome sight after all.
Are you heading to ALA annual this year? Are you staying home, but wishing you could join the festivities in San Francisco? Here are some young adult books set in San Francisco to help you feel like you are there already:
Jade Moon is offered the opportunity to join her father in immigrating to the United States. Soon, however, she finds herself trapped on Angel Island with no promise of ever seeing her new country. The only way she can get off the island is to disguise herself as a boy. Can this fire horse girl survive the streets of 1920s San Francisco?
Frances’s mother dreams of the day that Frances graduates from high school and begins to pursue a career as a doctor. She encourages Frances to work very hard in school and has forbidden any extra-curricular activities. A computer glitch lands Frances in a speech class, though, and there she begins to find her true calling.
Middle school (usually 5th through 8th grade) is an incredible time. Kids begin to see themselves as part of a larger world, their minds and bodies go into development overdrive, and their relationships with everyone can shift dramatically. Middle schoolers are heavily invested in figuring out their identities; they push for increased independence from adults while often desperately seeking a sense of belonging among their peers. These experiences can be especially confusing, painful, or frightening for kids who feel different–such as kids whose gender identities or sexual orientations stand out in our still very binary and heteronormative culture.
This spring, Buzzfeed published an article titled “Coming Out As Gay in Elementary School,” which interviewed a few children and their families on their experiences coming out as gay, genderless, and queer at ages ranging from 7 to 13 years old. The article also cites research and interviews with Dr. Caitlyn Ryan of San Francisco State University’s Family Acceptance Project. In a 2009 practice brief, Dr. Ryan notes that their research shows that “both gay and straight children have their first ‘crush’ or attraction to another person at age 10” and on average, adolescents in their studies identified as lesbian, gay, or bisexual at age 13.4 (2). In the same report, she reiterates that children develop and express gender identity at ages 2-3 (2).
As a librarian, I want to be able to provide all of my students with stories that both reflect their lives, experiences, and identities and expand their understanding of our diverse world. Since these studies and testimonies clearly illustrate the relevance of LBGTQ+ stories to middle school students, I wondered: how many middle school age characters who identify on the LGBTQ+ spectrum show up in middle grade and young adult fiction?
Happily, we are beginning to see more and more novels featuring 10-14 year old LGBTQ+ characters. However, I struggled to find representations of girls who like girls or transgender boys, which was disheartening. We’ve got some great titles currently available and several exciting titles set to be published this year. But I’d love to see even more, especially featuring lesbian/bisexual/queer girls and transgender boys!
While her painfully bad singing rules out a future as an actor, theatre fanatic Callie has found her place backstage as a set designer. When talented twins Justin and Jesse join the middle school musical, the drama on and off stage reaches new heights. Callie’s thrilled to have a fun new friend in openly gay Justin and she hopes that quiet Jesse might be the boy to help her get over her crush on her old friend Greg.
So Hard To Say – Alex Sanchez
Thirteen year old Xio is confident, bubbly, and ready for first kisses and romance. When shy Frederick starts at school, Xio is happy to lend him a pen and invite him to join her lunch table. The two quickly become close friends but as Xio’s attempts to transform their relationship into romance escalate, Frederick finds himself increasingly attracted to handsome soccer player Victor.
When thirteen year old Nate hears about open auditions for the lead in the upcoming Broadway production of E.T. : The Musical, he will stop at nothing to get to New York City and claim his rightful space in the spotlight. Along the way, Nate faces merciless competition, perilous public transportation, and growing questions about his sexuality and identity. Nate’s adventures continue in the sequel, Five, Six, Seven, Nate!
I always love reading memoirs. They are such a great way to experience new perspectives on the world and to learn about an author in an intensely personal way. But as much as I enjoy text-only memoirs, I love graphic novel memoirs even more because the artwork brings a whole new dimension to the work. With these books, all of which are written and illustrated by the same individual, readers are brought into the author’s life in a way that text alone cannot achieve. Whether you already have a love for memoirs or not, these books are sure to keep you engaged and make you think about the world a bit differently.
Relish: My Life In The Kitchen by Lucy Knisley (2014 Alex Award winner, Great Graphic Novels 2014) – I’ve mentioned Lucy Knisley’s works before in this series of posts, but Relish is such a great example of a graphic novel memoir, that I couldn’t resist including it here. In this memoir, Knisley focuses on her love of food, integrating illustrated recipes with stories of growing up with a mom who is a chef and a dad who is a foodie into a unique coming-of-age story. This was the first book I ever read by Knisley and I think it is a great entry point for her works, particularly if you love good food.
I did not begin my career as an older sister on a very positive note. In fact, it is difficult to find an video of my brother’s infant years without having the footage interrupted by a bouncing three-year-old who springs into the frame to sing out some variation of “Look at me!”
Happily, despite some rough patches, my relationship with my brother is one of the most stable and significant aspects of my life. He’s my friend, fellow sci-fi television & folk music fan, joint owner of favorite childhood books, cooking idol, and one of my all around favorite people on the planet. Consequently, I have a soft spot for stories featuring siblings. Just as there are many different kinds of families and individuals, so too are there many different kinds of sibling relationships and all are complex & fascinating.
Since his beloved big brother T.J. was killed in action in Iraq, Matt has been moving through his quickly collapsing life in a daze. Between failing classes, getting in fights at school, and trying to avoid his dad’s anger and disappointment, Matt feels like his purpose disappeared with T.J. But when his brother’s personal effects are finally delivered, Matt is convinced that he might finally be able to understand T.J.’s death. But T.J.’s possessions contain certain shocking revelations that force Matt to wonder how well he really knew his brother.
It isn’t uncommon for younger siblings to believe that their elder sisters are extraordinary, but Chloe knows she’s far from the only person to recognize that her sister Ruby’s someone special. Ruby is the girl that everyone longs to touch–the girl everyone wants to be. When Ruby wants something to happen, it does. She’s untamable, unpredictable, and almost unbelievable. But after a night out with Ruby & her friends went horribly wrong, Chloe was sent away. Now, two years later, they’re reunited–but Chloe can’t help wondering exactly how far Ruby was willing to go to get her back.
Books for the Beast is a biennial YA Literature conference sponsored by the Enoch Pratt Free Library and hosted by the Roland Park Country School in Baltimore, Maryland. Teens, teachers and librarians converged this past Saturday October 19th for the conference to talk about chosen reading lists in small discussion groups and to listen to featured authors speak from their perspective about trends in YA literature. For more information about the Books for the Beast conference and this year’s full reading list, please click here.
Robin Wasserman was the keynote speaker this year, and she discussed â€œDarkness in YA Literature.â€ It was an engaging presentation that included great insight, some humor and middle school pictures! There was also a hilarious aside about her feelings for the new movie Gravity. If you ever get the chance, you should ask her about it some time. She spoke about the need for acknowledgement that the world is full of terrible things and that through these dark stories in YA literature readers have a safe space to tackle the darkness and their fears. The book It by Stephen King was the dark novel during her YA years that helped her embrace the idea that anything could happen and you could get through it.
I was recently approached by someone looking for a book recommendation. When I asked what kind of books she liked, she responded, “big, thick, chapter books.” We worked through what she was really looking for and I was able to make some recommendations, but ever since this interaction, I have had page counts on my mind.
Like they did with that patron, longer books seem to make an impact. They are easy to see on a shelf, and working through long books can sometimes feel like an accomplishment. Goodreads values page count by displaying stats on how many pages users have read in a year and highlighting the longest title off to the side. When I read Night by Elie Wiesel, a 109-page non-fiction title, I noticed that the cover of this particular edition had a New York Times quote calling the book “a slim volume of terrifying power.” It may not have been the intention, but this seems like it is justifying the book’s page count. Would that have been necessary if it was 400 pages?
I certainly have nothing against long books (thanks to Goodreads I know that the longest book I have read so far this year had 694 pages), but I do appreciate finding good stories that will not weigh down my purse on my commute. I have compiled a short list of books with 260 or fewer pages* that have been award winners, list makers, and/or simply fun reads.