Tundra Telegram: Books to Brighten Any Holmes

Hello, and thanks for joining us at Tundra Telegram, the column where we discuss ideas that are hounding readers and clue them into some relevant titles, in case they need a new literary obsession.

The holidays are just around the corner, so it would be perfectly reasonable to start talking about wintry or holiday books. But this week, we’re talking about something else: murder. Specifically, the murder of Enoch Drebber. The murder of this fictional Mormon kicks off the first story to feature fictional detective Sherlock Holmes. Written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the story was published in the 1887 edition of Beeton’s Christmas Annual, and first hit newsstands on December 1. The rest is literary history.

To celebrate 115 years of the world’s greatest detective, we’re recommending children’s books about, based on, or similar to the mysteries of Sherlock Holmes. Nearly any mystery story is – in some fashion – indebted to the stories about Sherlock Holmes. But with this roundup, we’ve focused on those that most clearly are an homage to the great detective, or – at the very least – have a distinctly Victorian flavor.

PICTURE BOOKS

What better way to start a young reader’s journey with Sherlock than a picture-book biography about the man who created him? Arthur Who Wrote Sherlock by Linda Bailey and Isabelle Follath chronicles the incredible life of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: a doctor, adventurer,  tireless campaigner for justice . . . and, of course, creator of the world’s greatest detective! Any kid with an interest in mysteries will love this lively story of the facts behind the fiction.

For a book of mysteries that many kids will know, and are conundrums worthy of Holmes himself, try Who Pushed Humpty Dumpty?: And Other Notorious Nursery Tale Mysteries by David Levinthal and John Nickle. Who committed a B & E at the Three Bears’ family home? Did Humpty Dumpty really just fall off that wall, or was he pushed? A streetwise investigator delves into five fairy-tale criminal cases, and though Binky wears a fedora (rather than a deerstalker hat), his shrewd mind has much in common with the great detective.

As Holmes and Watson are to London, Sam Cat and Dudley Pig are to Busytown. And in Richard Scarry’s The Great Steamboat Mystery, the almost-dynamic duo have to solve a jewel theft during a wedding aboard a steamboat (instead of eating cake). The best part is that young readers can assist by finding clues and helping crack the case in this humorous story book.

CHAPTER BOOKS & MIDDLE GRADE

Ghost and human child friends Simon and Chester may live in the here-and-now, but they are inspired by Sherlock Holmes in Cale Atkinson’s graphic novel Simon & Chester: Super Detectives! In the duo’s first comic-book adventure, Simon is busy writing a mystery (a regular Arthur Conan Doyle!) when Chester discovers a detective costume, complete with deerstalker. The two quickly decide to start solving mysteries themselves – starting with how a strange (yet adorable) dog wound up inside their house! (Perhaps a far cry from The Hound of the Baskervilles.)

Though their adventures take place decades before the first Holmes story, Ada Lovelace and Mary Shelley make for effective tween alternatives to Holmes and Watson in Jordan Stratford’s The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency series, illustrated by Kelly Murphy. The girls who grow up to become the first computer programmer and Frankenstein writer join forces to make a secret detective agency dedicated to unlocking only the most puzzling mysteries, whether those involve missing wills, counterfeit dinosaur bones, or coded messages from princesses.

And while Marthe Jocelyn’s beloved Aggie Morton, Mystery Queen series very explicitly takes inspiration from Agatha Christie and her fictional detectives (rather than Arthur Conan Doyle’s), there’s no denying these mysteries, inspired by the imagined life of Agatha Christie as a child and her most popular creation, Hercule Poirot, have a touch of Sherlock in them. At the very least, they occupy the same era of British mystery – and now you can burn though all four books in the series (mysteries from fall through summer) in one handsome ebook bundle.

YOUNG ADULT

If you need a YA fix for your Sherlock jones, look no further than the Enola Holmes series by Nancy Springer. Now a series of motion pictures starring Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) and Superman (Henry Cavill), the books star the teenaged sister of Sherlock Holmes, who finds herself investigating missing mothers, missing ladies of wealth, and even missing landladies (sometimes with the help of her talented older brothers, and sometimes while evading them!) And, like the Aggie Morton series, they are also available in one digital collection.

Equally intriguing is Shane Peacock’s The Boy Sherlock Holmes series. From The Eye of the Crow, the first book in the saga, to Becoming Holmes, the sixth and final book, Peacock reimagines Holmes as a teen social misfit with an aristocrat mother and poor Jewish father whose wits are his only defense – and an incredible asset when solving baffling murders in Victorian London. (Additionally, the books feature no nightmarish food sequences like that Young Sherlock Holmes film!)

Though Sherlock Holmes is not referenced, Singaporean-Canadian Y. S. Lee’s four-book series, The Agency, features secret assignments undertaken by heroines in a Victorian atmosphere. Mary Quinn, an orphan, is brought to Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls, which is a front for an all-female investigative unit who use disguises and wits to infiltrate everything from high society to damp cargo ships to solve the era’s most dastardly mysteries.

What if Sherlock Holmes had to solve the mystery of his own death? Well, Lemony Snicket is no Sherlock Holmes. But he has been poisoned in the book Poison for Breakfast (you can probably guess when the poisoning happens), and it’s up to the author to follow a winding trail of clues to solve the mystery of his own murder plot – with more than a few diversions along the way in this archly comic novel.

Holiday Spotlight: Candlewick Press 2022

Here at Penguin Random House Canada, we’re lucky to work with so many different publisher lists. This holiday season, we’ll be highlighting each one with a dedicated post to help you find the perfect gift (or your next read). Today’s post spotlights Candlewick Press.

A Very Mercy Christmas
By Kate DiCamillo
Illustrated by Chris Van Dusen
32 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536213607 | Candlewick
Stella Endicott felt joyful. She felt like something miraculous might happen. She wanted to sing. When Stella gets the sudden idea to go caroling, she has a little trouble getting someone to join her. Her brother, Frank, is not good at spontaneity. The Watsons are very involved in a precarious fruitcake attempt (but happy to send their pig, Mercy, out for the occasion). Eugenia Lincoln declines, a bit rudely, to accompany on her accordion, and Horace Broom is too busy studying planetary movement. Will Stella need to sing by herself – with enthusiastic contributions from the pig, the cat, and the horse she picks up on the way? Or does the evening hold a miracle Stella hadn’t expected? With tender affection for Mercy Watson and all her Deckawoo Drive friends, Kate DiCamillo and Chris Van Dusen offer a picture-book homage to the season that is perfectly suited for family sharing – perhaps with some cups of hot cocoa and a stack of well-buttered toast.

Christmas Street
By Jonathan Emmett
Illustrated by Ingela P Arrhenius
26 Pages | Ages 2-5 | Board Book
ISBN 9781536227529 | Candlewick
Everyone is busy on Christmas Street! Who is baking gingerbread? Who is wrapping presents? And who’s that coming down the chimney? Find out in this follow-up to Alphabet Street. And after you read the rhyming story, lift the flaps to learn the letters of the alphabet and seasonal words. Then flip the book and have fun with the giant snowy concertina play-scene on the reverse! With two large, sturdy flaps on every spread; bright, cheerful artwork from Ingela P. Arrhenius, illustrator of the best-selling series of lift-the-felt-flap board books and the Peekaboo board book series; and a clever rhyming text from Jonathan Emmett, this is a charming Christmas alphabet book that little ones will return to again and again.

I Love You All Year Round: Four Classic Guess How Much I Love You Stories
By Sam McBratney
Illustrated by Anita Jeram
72 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536228540 | Candlewick
When seeds, plants, and other creatures begin to change in the spring, Little Nutbrown Hare has lots of questions, including wondering what he will turn into one day. By summer, he notices colors everywhere – lovely greens, reds, and blues – but there’s one color he likes best of all. In autumn, the wind sends leaves flying, inspiring some hiding and chasing – and a funny surprise for Big Nutbrown Hare. And when wintertime comes, Little Nutbrown Hare makes a discovery: that “I Spy” is especially fun to play in the snow. Returning to shelves with a charming new cover, this collection of simple, endearing tales, starring two of the world’s most beloved characters, is perfect for sharing with little hares any time of year.

One and Everything
By Sam Winston
48 Pages | Ages 7-10 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536215663 | Candlewick
Once there were many stories in the world. There were stories with sunsets and wonderful tales filled with fairies and dinosaurs. But one day, a story decided that it was the best, the most important story ever. It called itself the One and started to consume every other story it came across. The One ate stories made of seas and others full of dogs. Soon it seemed that the One was all there was . . . or was it? Inspired by the Endangered Alphabets project, aimed at preserving cultures by sharing their unique scripts, author-illustrator Sam Winston uses writing systems such as cuneiform and Tibetan, Egyptian hieroglyphs and ogham to illustrate this book in his signature typography-based style, using symbols and letters that have relayed the world’s stories over the centuries.

Peppa Pig and the Christmas Surprise
By Candlewick Press
32 Pages | Ages 2-5 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536228106 | Candlewick
It’s Christmas morning, and Santa has left presents under the tree for everyone. But no one is more delighted than Grandpa Pig, whose gift is something he’s always wanted: a drone! Everyone rushes outside to try it out, and Peppa and George love watching where it flies. But when its battery runs low, the drone is supposed to fly home. Where is that? Could it be . . . the North Pole? As Peppa and George watch and wait, they spot friends having wintry fun while Grandpa’s gift flies farther and farther away. What kind of Christmas surprise will it take for him to get it back?

Sunday Funday: An Activity for Every Weekend of the Year
By Katherine Halligan
Illustrated by Jesus Verona
112 Pages | Ages 7-9 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536227482 | Candlewick
Make every Sunday a fun day with an amazing activity to keep you busy each weekend of the year. From gardening projects and obstacle courses to creative crafts and recipes, there’s something fun to do no matter what the weather is. Packed with fifty-two seasonal activities for all ages, this book will be sure to make every weekend a fantastic one.

This Is Not My Hat
By Jon Klassen
35 Pages | Ages 2-5 | Board Book
ISBN 9781536228052 | Candlewick
When a tiny fish shoots into view wearing a round blue topper (which happens to fit him perfectly), trouble could be following close behind. So it’s a good thing that enormous fish won’t wake up. And even if he does, it’s not like he’ll ever know what happened. . . . Visual humor swims to the fore as the best-selling Jon Klassen follows his breakout debut with another deadpan-funny tale.

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas: Or Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas
By Clement C. Moore
Illustrated by Matt Tavares
32 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536217995 | Candlewick
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there. Once upon a time, children imagined St. Nicholas as a stern, skinny bishop who was as likely to dole out discipline as Christmas presents. But thanks to the poem “Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas” – written by Clement C. Moore in 1822 and published the next year in the Troy Sentinel – a plumper, merrier St. Nick was born, transformed into the sleigh-riding, chimney-diving jolly old elf we now call Santa Claus. With gorgeous monochrome illustrations by Matt Tavares that are meticulously true to pre-Victorian times, this reissue of the holiday favorite ’Twas the Night Before Christmas Or Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas honors the poem’s original language in a definitive keepsake volume.

Two-Headed Chicken
By Tom Angleberger
208 Pages | Ages 7-10 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536223217 | Walker Books US
Anything is possible in the multiverse, including a madcap adventure starring a plucky two-headed chicken. But look out – there’s a chicken-hungry moose in pursuit! In this fourth wall–breaking graphic novel, our double-headed hero is chased through dozens of bizarre universes, from an ocean planet with a disturbing mermoose (that you can never unsee) to a world where chickens drive cars, and even to a land covered with . . . pizza sauce? With each BZOOP! of the universe-hopping Astrocap, the only thing to expect is the unexpected. Packed with jokes, quizzes, and games, the two-headed chicken’s wacky escapades will remind readers of such favorites as Dog Man and CatStronauts. Absurdist superstar Tom Angleberger makes his original graphic novel debut with this lightning-fast caper that will have readers laughing out loud and eager for each new page.

Where’s Waldo? Destination: Everywhere!
By Martin Handford
32 Pages | Ages 5-9 | Paperback
ISBN 9781536228908 | Candlewick
Have you ever wondered which of his many adventures Waldo loved best? Seek the answer in this paperback collection of some of Waldo’s most iconic journeys. Everyone’s favorite bespectacled explorer has been many places – the land of dragon flyers, a Jurassic arena of sports-loving dinosaurs, even the set of black-and-white movies in Hollywood. Join Waldo as he handpicks his favorite journeys of all time, revisiting twelve of his most fantastic travels in a paperback collection with a fresh cover and a surprise at the end of the book. Eye-boggling games await Waldo-watchers alongside every scene in this tribute to Waldo’s many years wandering the world.

Our Stars of 2022

At Tundra Book Group (Tundra Books, Puffin Canada, and Penguin Teen Canada), we think all our books are brilliant, and it’s nice when others think so too! Congratulations to our authors and illustrators; these are our starred books of 2022!

THREE STARS:

Night Lunch
By Eric Fan
Illustrated by Dena Seiferling
48 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735270572 | Tundra Books
“Via the glow of streetlamps, the luminous moon, and the cart’s twinkling light, Seiferling (The Language of Flowers) theatrically illuminates the nighttime action,” – Starred Review, Publishers Weekly
“It’s difficult to create stories that plug directly into the looping logic of the minds of very young children that are also smart and engaging enough for adults in charge of bedtime reading.” – Starred Review, Quill & Quire
“An inspired inversion of the sleep-pushing picture book.” – Starred Review, Shelf Awareness

The Puffin Keeper
By Michael Morpurgo
Illustrated by Benji Davies
112 Pages | Ages 9-12 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735271807 | Puffin Canada
“A memorable story of the healing powers of art, nature, and human kindness.” – Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews
“Morpurgo’s spare, deeply felt prose, with undercurrents of the otherworldly, creates an irresistible momentum for this elegant story of the sea and a destiny fulfilled.” – Starred Review, Publishers Weekly
“Whether on land or at sea, this tale of lasting friendship delivers adventure and charm in spades. A welcome addition to most collections.” – Starred Review, School Library Journal

TWO STARS:

My Self, Your Self
By Esmé Shapiro
48 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781774880234 | Tundra Books
“A sublime joy” – Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews
“Shapiro envelops big ideas within this whimsically affirming exploration of individuality and selfhood.” – Starred Review, Publishers Weekly

Rodney Was a Tortoise
By Nan Forler
Illustrated by Yong Ling Kang
40 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735266629 | Tundra Books
“Wry, observational writing by Forler and loose, frequently funny vignettes by Ling Kang give this tale of loss its own distinctive, endearing resonance.” – Starred Review, Publishers Weekly
“This tender story about losing a friend and making room for a new one ends on a realistically hopeful note.” – Starred Review, The Horn Book

ONE STAR:

A Garden of Creatures
By Sheila Heti
Illustrated by Esmé Shapiro
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735268814 | Tundra Books
“The discussions are thoughtful but direct, with no euphemisms or straightforward answers . . . . A beautiful and unconventional meditation on loss and love.” – Starred Review, Booklist

Arthur Who Wrote Sherlock
By Linda Bailey
Illustrated by Isabelle Follath
56 Pages | Ages 5-9 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735269255 | Tundra Books
“Bailey, the author of Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein, writes with a sure sense of her audience . . . . Follath’s droll illustrations capture the look of the Victorian era, the drama of Doyle’s imagination, and the dry wit of Bailey’s text. A lively, memorable biography.” – Starred Review, Booklist

Baby Squeaks
By Anne Hunter
40 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735269095 | Tundra Books
“The gift of gab proves deeply funny in Hunter’s (Where’s Baby?) earnest portrait of early language acquisition.” – Starred Review, Publishers Weekly 

Fight Like a Girl
By Sheena Kamal
272 Pages | Ages 14+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780735265578 | Penguin Teen Canada
“Kamal’s raw novel about a young fighter from a working-class background fittingly pulls no punches when it comes to examining the lasting impact of familial trauma. Trisha’s search for the truth will stay with readers, as will the satisfying feeling that they have finished reading a truly complex page-turner.” – Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews

Flowers Are Pretty . . . Weird!
By Rosemary Mosco
Illustrated by Jacob Souva
36 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735265943 | Tundra Books
“Using wordplay (“Bee honest” and “bee-lieving”) and puns galore, a bee explains how flowers are both wonderful and weird.” – Starred Review, School Library Journal

Kumo: The Bashful Cloud
By Kyo Maclear
Illustrated by Nathalie Dion
64  Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735267282 | Tundra Books
“Sprinkled with Japanese vocabulary, Kumo will impart a new appreciation for clouds and show readers how it can sometimes be frightening to step into the world, then reassuring them that others are willing to help when we overcome our bashfulness.” – Starred Review, Quill & Quire

Midnight and Moon
By Kelly Cooper
Illustrated by Daniel Miyares
48 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735266308 | Tundra Books
“The story’s gentle drama and quiet heroics of two characters with disabilities make this a wonderful read that also affirms being introverted, nonverbal, or shy.” – Starred Review, Booklist

Super Family: Simon and Chester #3
By Cale Atkinson
96 Pages | Ages 6-9 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735272439 | Tundra Books
“Atkinson’s mastery of facial expressions is unmatched in comics today, and the combination of visual and written humor with genuinely sweet revelations about the nature of familial love is so perfectly balanced it’s simply superb.” – Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews

The Grave Thief
By Dee Hahn
344 Pages | Ages 9-12 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735269439 | Puffin Canada
“Fast-paced and full of magic, this debut is sure to be a smash hit with fantasy and adventure lovers. Readers should come prepared with a box of tissues, however, as there are some tearjerker moments. Recommended first purchase.” – Starred Review, School Library Journal

Too Many Pigs and One Big Bad Wolf: A Counting Story
By Davide Cali
Illustrated by Marianna Balducci
36 Pages | Ages 3-6 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735269910 | Tundra Books
“[A] a clever take on metafiction . . . Creative visuals and storytelling make for an absorbing read and a great bridge for both math and writing activities.” – Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews

Wrong Side of the Court
By H. N. Khan
312 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735270879 | Penguin Teen Canada
“H.N. Khan’s Wrong Side of the Court is finely crafted and well paced, it’s hard to believe it’s his literary debut. Toronto’s infamous Regent Park is brought vividly to life in the novel, and Khan creates relatable, true-to-life characters. He also portrays the multiculturalism of Toronto well, gradually immersing the reader in Fawad’s South Asian culture.” – Starred Review, Quill & Quire

Barnes & Noble Signed Editions

Here at Penguin Random House Canada, we love ourselves a good book deal. Especially when it means we can save our money to buy even more books.

Today, we wanted to highlight the exclusive signed edition of Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao for Barnes & Noble Signed Editions event.

Please note: the exclusive signed edition is only available in person at select Barnes & Noble stores.

While you’re at it, be sure to check out their other deals: they currently have a Buy One, Get One 50% Off promotion and have many other Penguin Random House specialty Black Friday Signed editions.

Iron Widow
By Xiran Jay Zhao
400 Pages | Ages 5-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781774883198 | Penguin Teen Canada
The boys of Huaxia dream of pairing up with girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots that can battle the aliens that lurk beyond the Great Wall of China. It doesn’t matter that the girls die from the mental strain. When 18-year-old Zetian offers herself up as a concubine-pilot, it’s to assassinate the ace male pilot responsible for her sister’s death. But when she gets her vengeance, it becomes clear that she is an Iron Widow, a rare kind of female pilot who can sacrifice males to power up Chrysalises instead. To tame her frightening yet valuable mental strength, she is paired up with Li Shimin, the strongest male pilot in Huaxia, yet feared and ostracized for killing his father and brothers. But now that Zetian has had a taste of power, she will not cower so easily. She will take over instead, then leverage their combined strength to force her society to stop failing its women and girls. Or die trying.

P.S. Look at our author hard at work signing all 3000 copies at our warehouse back in September!

Tundra Telegram: Books to Trans-form Your Mood

Hello, and thanks for joining us at Tundra Telegram, the column where we discuss things that are engendering heated conversations on social media and pass along some queerly excellent titles.

This past weekend, November 20, was the Transgender Day of Remembrance. Started in 1999 by transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith as a vigil to honor the memory of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was killed the year prior. Tragically, it was a day of remembrance that was marked by further anti-LGBTQ violence, as news broke early that morning of a mass shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs – a tragedy that would have been much worse, if not for the actions of some heroic patrons at the club.

In the face of such tragedy, we wanted to take a moment to feature books of trans joy – books that celebrate trans lives and experiences, with minimal focus on the hardships and tragedy. (Obviously, we appreciate books that speak to trans sadness and pain, too, but this week, we’re hoping to accentuate the positive.)

PICTURE BOOKS

Let’s start with some picture books that cheerlead trans stories. Calvin by JR and Vanessa Ford, and illustrated by Kayla Harren, celebrates the lead-up to young trans boy’s first day of school, complete with new haircut, new clothes, and . . . a new name. Any hesitance Calvin had introducing his true self to the world melts away as family, friends, and teachers rally around him in a joyful story inspired by the authors’ own child.

Jodie Patterson and Charnelle Pinkney Barlow’s Born Ready: The True Story of a Boy Named Penelope likewise lightly fictionalizes the experiences of the author’s son, as Penelope faces some frustrations and, eventually, real triumphs on his journey to share himself with the world. The main takeaway from the book is that it always makes you stronger when you are true to yourself and who you really are – and that sounds like a message to celebrate!

Can a book only published in 2018 be a classic? We think so, which is why we’ve included classic picture book Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love on this list. A buoyant celebration of self-love and genderfluidity, the story follows young Julián after he notices three women dressed spectacularly on the subway, all on their way to the Coney Island Mermaid Parade. When Julián gets home, daydreaming of the magic he’s seen, all he can think about is dressing up just like the ladies in his own fabulous mermaid costume. He worries what his abuela will think about how Julián sees himself, but soon realizes he needn’t worry: his abuela just wants to perfect his costume and take him to the parade!

I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel, Jazz Jennings, and illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas is the real-life story of co-author Jazz Jennings, a transgender child who has become a spokesperson for trans kids everywhere. (She’s also, for TLC Fans, the star of a reality show by the very same name!)

Another book based on a true story (and inspired by a documentary), Ho’onani: Hula Warrior by Heather Gale and Mika Song, features a young Hawaiian girl in who dreams of leading the boys-only hula troupe at her school. Ho’onani feels in-between. She doesn’t see herself as wahine (girl) OR kane (boy). She’s happy to be in the middle. So when Ho’onani finds out that there will be a school performance of a traditional kane hula chant, she decides to be part of it in this musical celebration.

There are few things more joyous than a rainbow wig, as any My Little Pony cosplayer can tell you. You can experience that joy yourself with My Rainbow by authors DeShanna and Trinity Neal, and illustrated by Art Twink (who has maybe the best illustrator name of all time?). When young transgender girl Trinity decides she needs long hair, her dedicated mom puts love into action as she creates the perfect rainbow-colored wig for her daughter.

We also recommend Pink, Blue, and You!: Questions for Kids about Gender and Stereotypes from Canadian children’s book artist Elise Gravel and trans activist and educator Mykaell Blais, an easy-to-understand picture book that opens the door to conversations about gender stereotypes and identity. We’ve found the book also has a crossover audience with adults who are trying to learn more, sometimes inspired by the kids and grandkids in their life who are trans or nonbinary.

CHAPTER BOOKS & MIDDLE GRADE

Okay, so it may not be the definition of trans joy, but Zenobia July by Lisa Bunker is a cyber mystery, and that was fun in The Net! Zenobia is an expert hacker trans girl in a new town and new school. So, when there’s a mystery to be solved around hateful memes being posted anonymously, Zenobia goes full digital Nancy Drew to crack the case and finds a new home in the process.

If cyber detective work doesn’t sound joyful enough, how about gliding through the open water like an otter? Obie Is Man Enough, a book by Schuyler Bailar, competitive swimmer and the first transgender athlete to compete in any sport on an NCAA Division I men’s team, is a coming-of-age story that closely mirrors Bailar’s own experiences in the pool. Transgender tween Obie, after his transition, has to leave his swim coach and pool (there is some bullying in this book), but soon dives into things with a new, more supportive swim team, with support from family and friends – including Charlie, his first crush.

What about a combination coming-of-age transgender and ghost story? That’s what Too Bright To See, the National Book Award finalist by Kyle Lukoff, is. Best friends Moira and Bug spend the summer before middle school investigating a haunting in Bug’s eerie old house while preparing for a new stage of life. For Bug, that preparation – and, in a strange way, the haunting – lead to the revelation they are transgender.

This Is Our Rainbow: 16 Stories of Her, Him, Them, and Us edited by Katherine Locke and Nicole Melleby, is an appetizing sampler of stories for middle-graders from all genres. Whether they’re in the mood for contemporary coming-out trans stories or adventures of nonbinary pirates on the high seas, this dazzling anthology has a colorful tale for everyone.

YOUNG ADULT

Few things bring more joy than love and baked goods, which is why we’re recommending A. R. Capetta’s Heartbreak Bakery. Teenage baker Syd (who is agender) sends ripples of heartbreak through the queer community of Austin, Texas, when a batch of post-being-dumped brownies turns out to be magical – and makes everyone who eats them break up their romantic relationships! Syd has a major crush on Harley, the sexy trans delivery messenger, and reading this book is akin to nuzzling underneath a big, magical, queer electric blanket.

But for a touch more magic, there’s Pet by Akwaeke Emezi, a whimsical, dark fantasy about Jam, a transgender girl who befriends a horrifying monster that emerges from one of her mother’s paintings. Jam lives in a utopian society, where trans kids are trusted to know their own bodies and feelings (that’s good), but it’s a creaky utopia that may rely on secrets and deceit (not so good). Still, there’s enough wonder and magic to bring a smile to any reader’s face.

Sports, romance, and courage are the highlights of The Passing Playbook by Isaac Fitzsimmons, the story of a trans boy athlete who gets a fresh start at liberal private school – where no one knows he’s trans. Not his soccer coach, and not even the cute, down-low Christian guy he has a crush on. When the soccer league enforces a discriminatory rule, Spencer has two choices – he can keep silent and let discrimination win, or he can reveal the truth about himself and fight for his rights and face the fallout. But Spencer will find that people can always surprise you in good ways.

In the mood for a little romance, but also the adrenaline rush of an argument? Both Sides Now by Peyton Thomas has the benefit of not only having a title that’s also a Joni Mitchell song, but also featuring a trans protagonist, Finch, who loves school debates! (Nerd alert!) And this isn’t just any debate Finch is competing in, it’s the Nationals, and Finch has developed a tiny crush on his very attractive, very taken, and very gay debate partner as he is scheduled to debate – in a cruel twist of fate – against transgender rights.

And since we were just talking about sports, let’s hop back into the pool. Man o’War by Cory McCarthy is a frequently comical coming-of-age novel about an Arab American trans swimmer taking the plunge into self-discovery in a very not-coastal Ohio town. We’ll admit, there’s some external (and internal) homophobia and a lot of angst, but it’s also – at times – a real barrel of laughs.

We should also note there is no shortage of books about the dizzying excitement of life as a trans youth published in the Pocket Change Collective series, all illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky. As just a sampling, Beyond the Gender Binary by Alok Vaid-Menon is like a gender-binary-smashing pep talk, giving readers access to the infinite possibilities within themselves. Leo Baker’s Skate For Your Life is the professional skateboarder’s personal journey within the sport as a non-binary athlete and proves that being authentically yourself is truly rad. And Continuum by Chella Man has the deaf and transgender artist, actor, and activist (from Titans) pushes readers to unlearn certain constructs in their lives and set off on a beautiful and chaotic road of exploration.